Orillia Blackball Classic Tournament kicks off on Friday
The Orillia Blackball Classic kicks off this week. PACKET & TIMES FILE PHOTO
For local high-school basketball players, the annual Orillia Blackball Classic is a rite of passage. It's a tournament they all desperately want to win. But it's also a favourite of teams from throughout the province because it is the longest continuously-running high-school basketball tournament in Canada.
"Everybody looks forward to Blackball. It's a great tournament," said Twin Lakes Secondary School teacher Sarah Hagman, one of the driving forces behind the annual tourney. "It's pretty amazing that it's still going strong after all these years."
Starting Friday, 24 teams from across the province will be going for gold in the senior and junior divisions as the 73rd annual Orillia Blackball Classic Tournament takes centre stage at gyms at the city's three secondary schools.
In the senior draw, 16 teams will vie for Blackball bragging rights. Among the squads looking to take home the coveted 8-ball trophy are two teams from Orillia Secondary School (OSS) in addition to entries from both Twin Lakes and Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School. The eight-team junior draw features eight teams including one from each local high school.
Twin Lakes will kick off senior boys' action at 10 a.m. Friday when they welcome I.E. Wheldon Secondary School (London) to the Thunderdome. At 11:30, OSS will host Almaguin Highlands Secondary School (South River). At 1 p.m., Fogarty will host Sudbury's Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School, while at OSS, OSS 2 will clash with Nicholson Catholic College of Belleville.
In the junior draw, action begins at 10 a.m. Friday when OSS hosts St. Joseph's Catholic School (Barrie). At 11:30, Twin Lakes will host Eastview Secondary School (Barrie) and at 1 p.m., Fogarty will battle Nicholson at Twin Lakes.
Action in both draws continue Friday night and culminate Saturday with championship games. The gold-medal game for junior boys occurs at 6 p.m. Saturday at OSS. The title game for the senior boys' division will begin at 8 p.m. at OSS.
This will be the first Blackball tournament in which games will not be played at Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute. ODCVI and Park Street Collegiate Institute were merged two years ago and a new school, OSS, was built to accommodate its students. That means a new chapter of Blackball history will be written this weekend at the new school.
"Admission to all games is free," said Hagman. "We'd love to see the bleachers packed and to see the community support these athletes and this tournament. It's great basketball."
For real-time results and updates, follow @BlackballBBall on Twitter.