Major change: Girls join boys in Tonganoxie’s annual tourney
The tradition-rich Tonganoxie Invitational will receive a face-lift this year.
Oh, fans still will recognize the tournament that's been played 44 times before. Recent regulars such as Eudora, Lansing, Pleasant Ridge and Jeff West have spots in the bracket again this season with the host Chieftains.
But the 45th Tonganoxie Invitational has a special addition -- a girls tournament.
For the first time, girls teams will join the boys in the weeklong tournament that begins Monday.
Many of the teams in the girls bracket also will have boys teams competing. Tonganoxie, Lansing, Immaculata, Jeff West Pleasant Ridge and Metro Academy will give fans ample chances to see their boys and girls play. Other teams playing this season are the Maur Hill boys team from Atchison and Hogan Prep girls in Kansas City, Mo. The junior varsity girls team from Lawrence-Free State also will play.
In all, 16 teams will be on hand at this year's tournament -- eight boys teams and eight girls squads -- so it's not off the mark to say Tonganoxie will be a basketball bonanza next week. All games except for seventh-place contests will be played at the high school. Those games will be at the junior high.
"Four games a night makes for a busy night but we would rather have everybody playing at one place," THS athletics director Brandon Parker said.
Games will begin at 3 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. every day except the final day, Jan. 24. Games will be played at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on that day. Next Wednesday will be the only off day during the week.
Parker isn't worried about so many games at one site. He's more concerned about what's going on outside.
"We should be OK as long as we don't have terrible weather," Parker said. "That will be the biggest problem.
For years the Tonganoxie girls have been spectators during the big tournament week. Last year, the girls team played in the Raider Classic at Immaculata in Leavenworth a week later, but fans were split between that tournament and a boys regular season game. Parker hopes this year and for many more that won't be a problem.
"More schools are looking at having their tournaments in the same week," Parker said. "A lot of people are going to that so we wanted to stay competitive in keeping people here."
The Raider Classic once was a vibrant tournament for both boys and girls teams, but numbers have dropped off in recent years. Many of the teams at Tonganoxie this year were in Leavenworth last season. With the odd-number, seven teams in the girls bracket, the Lawrence-Free State junior varsity will join the girls tournament to make a complete bracket.
"It won't count on people's records," Parker said about playing Free State. "But at least they'll play a game."
The tournament will conclude Jan. 24, with championship games at 5:30 p.m. for the girls and 7:30 p.m. for the boys.