The Metro Holiday Tournament wasn’t in an arena setting like Omaha’s Baxter Arena or Ralston’s newly named arena. For historians it wasn’t at Sapp Fieldhouse on Omaha’s campus either, that ship sailed years ago.
The change of venue to high schools isn’t the first time the tournament was played in a high school setting. Remember, Omaha Benson and Millard South hosted parts of the tournament within the last 10 years.
At Bellevue West, where the winners bracket games were played, the environment was the best it’s been in years. Maybe it was the music that was turned off on time and not while the game was being played. It was age appropriate, basketball related and set the tone for an intense environment. It also helped that the announcers weren’t talking during game action.
In a high school gym, student sections — although not full — were boisterous on occasion, the crowds looked bigger and the cheering seemed louder in big moments. Everything about the environment at Bellevue West just seemed more like a real high school basketball game.
Some questions were raised: Why no Baxter Arena this year like last year? It comes down to money. The conference and Baxter couldn’t agree on a rental rate. Why no Ralston? Two reasons, the arena doesn’t have or own a basketball court. Omaha owned the court they played on and took it with them to Baxter when it opened. That is why the Council Bluffs logo was on the court the last two years the tournament was in Ralston. Ralston was also under new management and according to sources wanted to raise the rental fee to nearly two thirds of ticket sales.
I understand, and most would agree that playing in an arena environment makes the tournament feel special. I would like to see it moved to Creighton’s D.J. Sokol Arena. It is the ideal size. Granted, parking is an issue.
Not only did the Bellevue West boys win as expected, the No. 7 seed girls took home the Holiday Tournament title. Dane Bacon’s bunch had just one loss coming into the tournament but the
“Hopefully we can build on it. We respect them (Millard South) a ton, they are a fantastic basketball team,” Bacon said of his team’s 55-53 championship game win.
Bellevue West boys sure do look like the most complete team in the state. The T-Birds are deep and talented. Although it was their worst offensive performance this season, they cruised to a 66-44 win in the title game over Prep. The T-Birds shot just 42.2 percent in the game and were 25 percent from the 3-point line.
“Both defenses had a little bit to do with that. Defensively for the most part we locked in and did a pretty good job,” Bellevue West boys coach Doug Woodard said.
Josiah Dotzler, Sr. G, Bellevue West
Jaden Jackson, Jr., G, Bellevue West
Derek Rollins, Soph. F, Millard North
Dillon Clausen, Jr. F, Creighton Prep
PJ Newbill, Sr. G, Creighton Prep
Anicha Russell-Brown, Jr. G, Bellevue West
Naomi White, Jr. G, Bellevue West
Khloe Lemon, Sr. G, Millard South
Cora Olsen, Sr. G/F, Millard South
Mya Babbitt, Sr. G, Millard South