What better way to wash down all that Christmas dinner and prep for the new year than with a girls high school basketball tournament?
The annual Holiday Hoops tournament will kickoff at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 28 in Wilson Dome at Payson High School and continue through Dec. 29.
The 16-team tournament gives smaller schools, like Payson, the opportunity to square off against big-school squads and teams they never compete against during the regular season.
Among the 4A and 5A schools entered this year are Mesa, Flagstaff Coconino, Mesa Westwood, Marana, Yuma Kofa, San Tan Valley Poston Butte and Tucson’s Catalina and Sabino.
Private and parochial schools will also compete, including Immaculate Heart and Westwind Prep.
“We look forward to putting on a good tournament and having many good games of basketball played in our gyms,” said PHS host coach Kelly Krieg. This is the second year Krieg has worked to put on the tournament.
Last year, Krieg and PHS alum and assistant volleyball coach Jadyn Walden scored a huge win when they returned the tournament to its traditional dates after Christmas.
Since the holiday tournament started some 15 years ago, it was always held following Christmas. But two years ago, the tournament was held before the holidays and only half as many teams attended.
This year, Krieg recruited teams from all over the state, including those with impressive records.
Tucson’s 4A Sabino is 11-1, Catalina is 9-0 and Marana’s 4A Tigers sit at 7-0.
“It is going to be a pretty tough tournament,” Krieg said.
Payson will take on the Coconino Panthers (1-7) first, with the tip-off at 10 a.m., Tuesday in the dome.
Krieg said the team is working on defense leading up to the tournament. Second-year coach Krieg is also working to get younger players involved.
“I believe in playing the best people and sometimes that is the younger kids,” she said.
Additionally, with senior starter Chioya Hill possibly out with an ankle injury, Krieg is relying on up-and-coming freshmen Emmee Ashby and underclass players Liz Harpe and Harley Turney. Hill was hurt in the Wickenburg Tournament last weekend when she reinjured her ankle. She may play in Tuesday’s game.
“We are a young team,” Krieg said. “We are getting better for sure, and once we get everyone healthy and working together, we should be pretty good. I think we’ll play better basketball down the stretch.”
Due to structural problems with the roof at the old gym, the tournament will be held in the Wilson Dome and at the gym at Julia Randall Elementary School.
“Athletic Director Rob Varner has been a great help in finding us another gym to use,” Krieg said.