Although it may look a little bit different this year, Bishop LeBlond High School will host its annual holiday basketball tournament this week.
“It’s always great to have it around the holidays because a lot of teams don’t get the opportunity to play over the holiday break,” LeBlond boys head coach Mitch Girres said. “It’s good for our kids to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.”
Starting Monday, LeBlond will host ten different schools in eight-team tournaments for each the boys and girls that will continue throughout the week
For the Eagles, the tournament represents an opportunity to get some extra home games under their belts as they head into the second half of the season.
“Having the holiday tournament is always just an exciting time because it’s home court,” LeBlond girls head coach Jackie Ziesel said. “It’s home court advantage, and you get to see the girls perform against really good teams.”
LeBlond sophomore Emma Raines said she is looking forward to the competition on her home court.
“I think it’s a big confidence booster to have a home game, especially this holiday tournament,” she said. “I really think we can do pretty good in it this year.”
The LeBlond girls enter the week with a 6-2 record and ranked No. 9 in Class 2 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. With an underclassmen-heavy nucleus, the LeBlond girls have exceeded expectations to this point.
“We’ve definitely had a stronger season than we have in past years,” Raines said. “I think incoming freshmen have had a strong help with us. There’s just a really good bond that we’ve had.”
The LeBlond boys have put on a good showing thus far, too. They sit with a 5-3 record, and are ranked No. 8 in Class 2 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. LeBlond junior Chris Guldan said he looks forward to the holiday tournament every year.
“It’s really fun,” he said. “Usually the crowd has a lot of energy, and we get to feed off of it, and it’s just really fun.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, only a limited number of fans will be allowed into Grace Gymnasium for the tournament. But Ziesel said she hopes they can get all the support possible.
“Usually it brings a lot of people across the community to watch some good basketball and some good talent,” she said. “Luckily, we have cameras and news and our livestream to have everyone still continue to watch us.”
As the teams turn toward the new year and the second half of the season, both coaches say they hope they can use this tournament to get a rhythm going as they head into conference play.
“There’s going to be some strong conference teams that we’re going to face,” Ziesel said. “It may not always be the outcome that we want, but the biggest thing is just fight hard and never give up.”
No matter the circumstances, the LeBlond basketball program is excited to continue hosting the annual tournament.
“It’s always a great tournament with a great field,” Girres said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”
The LeBlond girls will be in action first Monday at 7 p.m. with the boys to follow at 8:30 p.m. Both teams are facing Plattsburg.