Holiday Hoops Brings Crowds, Cash To Town

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Anyone who has helped stage a high school tournament in any sport understands it is a huge undertaking.

Especially when it involves 16 teams playing non-stop for two days — as was the case in last week’s Holiday Hoops girls basketball tournament.

As daunting as hosting Holiday Hoops is, tournament director Jayden Walden and first year Lady Longhorn coach Kelly Krieg took on the challenge and put on a first-class tournament that showcased our town and school to visitors from Tucson, Yuma, Marana, Coolidge, Mesa, Flagstaff, Glendale and reservation communities.

The two should be applauded for the dedication and commitment to hosting a fine tournament that gave about 200 high school players a stage to showcase their talents.

Walden went so far as to recruit the services of her older sister, Sage, to run the snack bar during both days of Holiday Hoops.

Walden has said she is dedicated to building the tournament into one of the finest in the state, and eventually hopes to make it a three-day shootout with each team receiving five games as is offered by the Alvarez Tire Shootout at Bradshaw Mountain for boys’ teams.

During an opening-round game on the first day of Holiday Hoops, Walden discussed her future plans with PHS counselor Don Heizer, who is a state renowned expert at hosting big-time tournaments.

Heizer gave her some well-received tips, which Walden will undoubtedly use in scheduling future tournaments.

Those who cross paths with Walden or Krieg around town should take the time to give them a big pat on the back and an “attaboy” approval for a job well done.

Praising Cluff

Coaches are seasoned to expect exceptional efforts from their players, but every once in a while, an athlete turns in an outstanding performance that leaves his coach spewing superlatives.

Such was the case with Longhorn wrestling coach Travis Koppenhafer after he and his team returned to Payson from competing in the Dave Work Memorial in Mingus.

After watching the unheralded and unsung Jacob Cluff wrestle his way to the 125-pound weight class championship, Koppenhafer heaped praise on his wrestler.

“He won with great class and as coaches, we couldn’t ask for a more hardworking and humble individual,” the coach said. “He has definitely earned his success.”

Cluff is a junior at Payson High School.

Town agenda

Upcoming town-sponsored youth sports and recreation programs include the annual Spring Break Recreation Program, Spring Break Sports Camp, Youth Soccer League and Youth T-Ball.

Registration for the Spring Break Recreation Program is Feb. 1 to Feb. 25 and it will be held 8 a.m. to noon, March 8 to March 11 in old PHS gym and Julia Randall Elementary gym.

Registration for the sports camp is now open, and sessions will be held 8 a.m. to noon, March 16 to March 19 at Rumsey Park. The fee for both the program and camp is $30 each, which includes supplies and snacks.

Camp sport offerings include soccer, flag football, disc golf, basketball and volleyball.

Town sports coordinator Joe Harris stresses that for the two programs, registration is required — “This is not a drop in program and space is limited.”

Youth Soccer League registration is Jan. 25 to March 8 and signup for T-Ball is March 22 to May 3. Fee for each is $25.

In soccer, youths will be placed in one of six divisions, which are: pre-kindergarten-kindergarten, first and second, third and fourth, fifth and sixth, seventh and eighth, and ninth through 12th grades.

For T-ball, players at the first- and second-grade level have the option of switching to coach-pitch baseball.

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