Martin Segovia and Jerry Johnson, respective athletic directors at Garden City and Holcomb high schools, had several goals in mind with last weekend's inaugural Clarion Inn Southwest Classic.
First, they wanted the opportunity for each school to host some early season games at home. Goal accomplished.
Second, they wanted to bring in some top-flight competition for the two schools. Del City, Okla., and Pueblo, Colo. East accomplished that goal, too.
In addition to landing quality out-of-state teams to the Classic, Segovia also knew that it would bring fans from out of town and would utilize lodging and restaurants in town while also making the shopping in town available to the visitors.
Thanks to the vision of Amro Samy and the folks at the Clarion Inn, they made the visiting teams' expense here just a little less. The Clarion Inn provided a few complimentary rooms for each team while both booster clubs at the two schools provided evening meals on Thursday and Friday to Del City and Pueblo players and coaching staffs.
Finally, though, the icing on the cake came on Saturday night when the two Finney County schools took to the Perryman Athletic Complex basketball court for the first time in the schools' history.
While crowds at The Garden on Thursday and Friday were above average, they could have been much better. Holcomb's fans have long been steadfast in their support of the Longhorns' teams, and the Classic was no exception. It was difficult to tell, but I'd make a small wager that there were more Holcomb people attending than Garden City.
The night that had been long-awaited since the announcement early in the year that Garden and Holcomb would meet in basketball for the first time history was well worth the wait.
The Lady Buffs and Lady Longhorns battled in what may well go down as one of the best basketball games of the year. It took a four-minute overtime period, and just a little lady luck, for the Buffs to squeak out a 57-56 win over the Longhorns. The crowd was sizeable (an estimated 2,000 attended), the student sections were vocal, boisterous and creative in their chants. It all made for a memorable night of high school basketball.
While not nearly as nail-biting an affair as the girls game, the boys game between the Buffs and Longhorns still offered local fans an opportunity to see how Class 3A Holcomb matched up with Class 6A Garden City.
People tend to forget that many of the players, boys and girls alike, play with and against each other during summer basketball, so there is already a certain level of familiarity. The 41-28 win by GCHS' boys was no runaway, and it only serves the purpose to show that on a given night, Holcomb's teams are certainly up to the task of competing with their nearby "big brother, big sister" school.
Garden City's teams, likewise, should not look at the games as an "everything to lose, nothing to gain," venture as I heard from some folks. These games weren't about big vs. small. These games were about giving local basketball fans an opportunity to watch their two Finney County teams compete against each other in hard-fought, spirited sporting contests.
In this case, both Garden City and Holcomb, as well as area basketball fans, came away as winners. The Classic accomplished its goals in more ways than one. Let's hope it stays for a long time.
Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org