By Rob Kiser
As the first Buckeye Insurance Group Holiday Classic that will involve two boys tournaments gets ready to tip off Tuesday, I thought I would look back at what has transpired in the tournament since Doug Haines of the Buckeye Insurance Group, Sonny Fulks (formerly of WPTW and now Press Pros Magazine) and former Piqua athletic director David Palmer brought a plan together in 2009.
The first tournament was played in January of 2009, with second tournament being played in December of 2009 — and the tournament has kept that date in late December ever since.
2009, Year 1
In the opening year, every contest was competitive.
Lehman Catholic got past Russia 63-59 and Piqua rallied from an 18-point deficit to knock off Covington 63-56.
That set up a rare Piqua-Lehman matchup for the championship game and it didn’t disappoint.
Piqua held the lead for much of the game, before Lehman rallied for a 46-43 victory.
Cavaliers coach Bruce Vanover is now the coach of the Miami East girls, while the first tournament MVP was Lehman’s Zac Schmitz.
2009, Year 2
Covington won a thriller over Lehman 65-63 in the opening round, with Russia defeating Piqua 85-48.
In the championship game, Russia pulled away late for a 60-52 win over Covington, with Levi Francis being named tournament MVP.
This tournament will be remembered for the hot shooting of Covington’s Eric Beckstedt on the opening night.
On his way to tournament MVP honors, Beckstedt made nine 3-point field goals and scored 32 points in Covington’s 78-40 win over Piqua. Lehman defeated Russia 63-55 in the other semifinal.
In the championship game, Beckstedt and Cole Owens led Covington to a 72-67 victory over Lehman.
In the final year in the original format, Lehman became the first two-time champion of the tournament.
The Cavaliers defeated Piqua 75-60 in the opening round, while Covington got past Russia 47-44.
In the championship game, a second-half blitz gave Lehman a 72-46 win over Covington, with Solomon King-White being named tournament MVP.
This was the first of three years in which there was both a boys and girls tournament.
In the boys tournament, host Piqua got is first and only Holiday title, outlasting Lehman 79-75 in the first championship game to go to overtime.
Xavier Harrison’s 26-point effort in the title game earned him MVP honors, while the Indians had to overcome a 31-point game from Lehman’s Greg Spearman.
In the girls tournament, Russia cruised to the first of what would be three straight titles with a 62-21 victory over Covington in the championship game.
Russia boys and girls picked up their second Holiday titles in 2013.
In the boys tournament, Russia defeated Piqua 53-49 and Lehman topped Covington 55-24 in the semifinals.
In the championship game, the Raiders came out on top 70-55 with Gavin Hoying winning tournament MVP honors.
Former Russia coach (and current Troy coach) Paul Bremigan picked up his 400th and 401th wins in the tournament.
In the girls tournament, Lehman got past Covington 40-35, while Russia defeated Piqua 45-37 in the semifinals.
Russia defended its title in the championship game with a 60-32 victory as Kylie Wilson won her second straight MVP award.
The trend continued with Russia again sweeping the titles in Bremigan’s final season as the Raiders coach.
The boys tournament provided the most dramatic championship game yet.
Jordan Gariety’s 3-point play with one-tenth of a second left in overtime broke a 67-67 deadlock with Piqua.
In the semifinals, Russia outpointed Lehman 90-81, while Piqua took care of Covington 63-41.
Gavin Hoying won his second tournament MVP honor.
In the girls tournament, Tim Hatcher’s Russia team finished off a perfect 6-0 run in the tournament with a third straight title, while Kylie Wilson finished as the only girl to ever win the MVP award, taking it for the third straight year.
In the semifinals, Covington got past Piqua 47-39, while Russia topped Lehman 69-29.
In the championship game, Russia used some torrid 3-point shooting in the early going to cruise to a 79-31 victory.
So what will 2015 bring?
As they say, the best is yet to come.