When the second Clarion Inn Southwest Classic tips off on Thursday, the event that was the brainchild of Garden City High School athletic director Martin Segovia and former Holcomb athletic director Jarrod Stoppel, will have a new look.
At least for the 2012 edition of what proved to be one of the more popular events on the 2011-12 schedule for both Garden City and Holcomb high school basketball teams.
In case you've forgotten, the inaugural event a year ago was co-hosted by the two Finney County schools with each playing home games on the first two nights against Del City (Okla.) and Pueblo East (Colo.)
On the final night, with games moving to the Perryman Athletic Complex on the campus of Garden City Community College, Garden City and Holcomb met on the basketball floor for the very first time in the two neighboring schools' history.
And it proved to be an electric atmosphere for local and area basketball fans to see these two county schools finally meet. And the games, especially the on girls' side, lived up to the pre-game hype. The Lady Buffs needed an overtime to finally slip past the Lady Longhorns, 57-56, while the Buffs' boys used a strong defensive effort to topple the Longhorns, 41-29.
This year, though, the organizers — in this case Segovia and his counterpart at Holcomb, Jerry Johnson, along with HHS principal Rob Schneeberger — pulled in Scott City to make it a three-way local event. The Beavers were unable to participate a year ago due in part to previous contracts with two Wichita schools, which provided for back-to-back road games for the Beavers.
"This gives us a year to start and prepare and discuss how we can make this work," Holcomb's Johnson said. "We'll need to look at filling in another game when that happens, and that's why you need the extra time to work out the scheduling."
Johnson said it was his desire to see the Classic thrive and provide opportunities for the home fans to see games at home as well as the thrill of the local matchup.
"It certainly was an exciting atmosphere last year, no doubt about it," Johnson said.
Now that they've joined in with the Finney County schools, the scheduling became a little more dicey and the local schools were unable to come up with a satisfactory solution on Saturday's schedule.
It was an easy decision to have all three schools host each of the first two days on Thursday and Friday. But with the ultimate goal of having all games played at the new Garden City High School gymnasium, who would play the early games, who would play the midday games and who would play the night games? Six games to be schedule, nobody desiring to play late morning or early afternoon.
The end result, at least for this year, is that all three teams get three home games. No travel, fans get to stay home, and the players/coaches don't have to board a bus for a road game. That makes a lot of sense.
For Scott City's Huck, the opportunity to see two road games disappear in favor of three home games was a no-brainer. The result occurred after the demise of the Scott City Invitational, which had been played for more than 50 years.
"We were really looking for a way to continue to have home games right at the start of the season, but when we had scheduled the games in Wichita last year, we just couldn't get things worked out to part of this then. Now we can and we're looking forward to being part of it and then working on making it even better next year."
But now, there's none of the same electricity, none of the same excitement that was generated a year ago with the Holcomb vs. Garden City matchup. And that will be sorely missed by fans of both teams and the students at each school. The noise volume at Perryman was hardly replicated at either school the remainder of the regular season. The good news is that Holcomb and Garden City will play in Garden in late January, in what has been established as a home-and-home agreement. Garden gets to head west in 2014.
One good thing, though, is that Holcomb's Johnson, Scott City's Huck and Garden City's Segovia all have indicated a desire to sit down at the conclusion of this year's event and see how to tweak the Classic format.
What seems to be a possibility is that every-other year, the Buffaloes will face either Holcomb or Scott City in the final Saturday night games, with the girls playing early and the boys following. In that scenario, the other "local" team would play one of the away schools in the mid-afternoon contests while the other remaining away teams would play early, thus giving them an opportunity to head home early.
In essence, if Garden and Holcomb were to play the late Saturday games, the objective would be that Scott City and Garden would meet during the regular season. The next year, it would be Scott City vs. Garden City in the Classic finale and then Garden and Holcomb would play during the regular season. All in all, a reason to celebrate that possibility.
"We think playing one of the area teams on Saturday in the late games is a great reward for the players, for the coaches and for the fans of the area," Segovia said. "There's no doubt, we'd love to have the same kind of atmosphere that we did when we played Holcomb last year. It was really something."
In a day and age where scheduling problems face teams from this part of the state, it makes sense to do everything possible to schedule games with nearby schools where it makes sense. In this case, the basketball fan of southwest Kansas benefits because it gives all three programs an opportunity to be showcased in an event that was originally created to spotlight Garden City and the surrounding area.
Let us hope that the administrators and coaches at all three schools come up with another new look for the Classic when 2013 rolls around. Basketball fans will appreciate it.
Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be reached at email@example.com