Special to the Register & Bee
Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones said this week the Harry Johnson Holiday Classic, which marked the return of post-Christmas high school basketball tournament action in the city, was a huge success.
Jones congratulated the teams for playing hard for their schools, and he thanked the community for supporting the tournament, which drew sellout crowds for the Friday evening and Saturday evening sessions last week.
“I was so excited about this tournament,” Jones said. “So many people in the community told me they wanted the return of this tournament, so we put together a committee that worked hard to bring it to life. I knew we were going to see teams compete like crazy, and they did. I knew the people would come out to watch, and they did. It was such a thrill. It was unbelievable.”
Jones said the tournament would not have been possible without the financial support of organizations throughout the community and the work of scores of volunteers who organized and worked at the tournament.
“I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough to everyone,” Jones said. “There were so many who played a part. This tournament would not have happened without them.”
A committee appointed by Jones began meeting earlier this year to revive the tournament, which was held for 33 consecutive years, ending in 2015. No games were held in 2016 and 2018.
The tournament returned with a new name, honoring Johnson, who coached the GW boys team for 19 years and led them to a state championship in 1996.
It featured eight high school basketball boys teams and three high school girls teams competing over three days — Dec. 26 to 28 — at the George Washington High gymnasium.
The boys teams played in a traditional tournament-style format that ended with Green Run (Virginia Beach) defeating GW in the championship game. They were joined in the tournament by Carlisle (Martinsville), Dan River, Faith Christian (Roanoke), Holy Cross (Lynchburg), Magna Vista High (Ridgeway), and Westover Christian Academy.
The girls teams participating were GW, Faith Christian and Magna Vista. They played in a round-robin format.
Tournament director Reid Taylor joined the mayor in thanking the sponsors and volunteers.
“We had so many who stepped up — from the corporate sponsors and those who purchased space in the program to those who gave their time to do the tasks that a tournament requires,” Taylor said. “A lot of people made this possible. It was a great tournament.”