DRAFFENVILLE – Last week’s winter storm took its toll on one of Marshall County’s premier sporting events, the high school basketball Hoop Fest.
But officials still deemed the event a success.
The 18th annual festival’s Friday schedule was canceled, and the Thursday and Saturday schedules had to be revised when teams began to drop out because of treacherous traveling conditions.
Half the boys field – 13 of 26 teams – and one of threegirls teams canceled their appearances, causing considerable shuffling of the original pairings.
Former Marshall County High School athletic director Steve Woodward, who established the event in 1996 at Massac County High in Metropolis, Ill., and brought it to Marshall County when he moved here in 2000, said it was the first time the event, always held around the first of December, has been affected by inclement weather.
No figures were released on attendance, nor on the outcome of various fund-raising activities conducted during the Hoop Fest by various school organizations.
But the crowd was never better than half of the 5,500-seat capacity of Reed Conder Gymnasium.
“Compared to last year we did less than half what we normally do in concession sales,” said Chris Smith, president of the MCHS Band Boosters.
“I have a lot of items that didn’t sell that I can return, so until I do that I won’t know the exact impact,” Smith said. “But it hurt us, there’s no doubt. Not having Friday night games really made a difference.”
The band counted on Hoop Fest for as much as 50 percent of fundraising efforts last year.“We’ll probably be looking at some sort of spring fund raiser to made up what we lost on Hoop Fest.”
Some concession efforts were successful anyway, MCHS athletic director Jeff Stokes said. The Backboard Club, the basketball booster organization, enjoyed a sellout by Happy Cow Ice Cream and the Dugout Club, the baseball team booster group, sold out of barbecue, Stokes said.
“We salvaged what we could of the event,” said Marshall County Schools Superintendent Trett Lovett.
“We had made a commitment to have these teams play and we did what we could do to make it happen in an abbreviated format.”
The schedule of 18 games was pared to 10, including three games on Thursday instead of the four that were originally planned and seven on Saturday, which was supposed to consist of two marathon sessions with five games in an early session beginning at 9 a.m. and four more in the evening, starting at 5 p.m.
Several of the top nationally prominent teams did appear, including Arsenal Technical High School of Indianapolis, featuring University of Kentucky recruit Trey Lyles; Moss Point (Miss.) High School, which has another player who has signed an athletic grant to play for UK next year; and Louisville Ballard High School, whose roster include future University of Louisville player Quentin Snider.
Also participating were Huntington (W.Va.) St. Joseph Prep, with star player Montaque Gill-Caesar and Prime Prep Academy of Dallas, whose Emannuel Mudiay is considered the top high school player in the nation.
Mudiay has signed to play for Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Among the schools that decided not to travel to Marshall County was Marie S. Curie Metropolitan High School of Chicago, which took part in last year’s Hoop Fest
Most of the top-echelon teams played Saturday. Lovett said the Saturday morning crowd was probably the largest ever for a Saturday early session.
“We had changed the schedule and had some of star players in the lineup,” Lovett said.
UK coach John Calipari and members of his staff, including assistant coach Orlando Antigua, were on hand Saturday evening, drawing a line of autograph seekers in the times between games and at halftime.
“Coach Cal’s appearance was a highlight of the weekend for those in attendance.,” Lovett said.
The final game played to a near empty gym because it started nearly an hour late and by that time people wanted to get home, Lovett said.
It didn’t help that the game was a mismatch of Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va., and first-time Hoop Fest participant Atlanta Sports Academy of Dawsonville, Ga.
Oak Hill handed Atlanta Sports its second one-sided defeat of the evening, winning 88-41.
MCHS athletic director Jeff Stokes praised the efforts to persevere in challenging conditions.
“I want to thank everybody and their efforts in extreme conditions to make Hoop Fest a success,” he said. “I’ve had people who made it in tell me our parking lot was in better condition than I-24.”
Writing off Friday’s games was primarily for the safety of fans, Stokes said.
“People understood our situation and people said we did the right thing,” Stokes said.
The parking lot was cleared on Friday by the Marshall County Schools crew, with an assist of a dump of salt by the Marshall County Road Department.
“Financially, we are going to be all right,” Stokes said. “What we didn’t take in at the gate because of the crowds being down, we saved on paying for the teams who were not able to get here.”