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Holiday Classic features new teams

There will be a different look to the field when the 19th Annual Halifax County High School Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament opens Thursday at Halifax County High School.

Defending Holiday Classic champion Person (N.C.) High School will not be in the field this season, with Roxboro (N.C.) Community School filling the spot the Rockets have occupied for many years. Also not in the field for the boys tournament this season is Pamlico County (N.C.) High School, which has been a participant the past two seasons. Bluestone High School will fill that vacancy this season.

The field for the girls tournament will be the same as last year, with neighboring rival Person (N.C.) High School, Gretna High School and Park View High School joining host Halifax County high School.

Next week’s tournament will feature alternating girls and boys games on the opening day on Tuesday.

The girls teams will kick off Tuesday’s action, with Gretna High School squaring off against Person (N.C.) High School in the tourney opener at 3 p.m. In the second game of the tournament at 4:30 p.m., the boys teams from Park View High School and Roxboro (N.C.) Community School will face each other.

Later, at 6 p.m., the Park View High School girls will face the Halifax County High School girls. In the 7:30 p.m. nightcap, the Halifax County High School boys team will face Bluestone High School.

The tournament consolation and championship games will be played on Friday, with the girls consolation game being played at 3 p.m. and the boys consolation game being played at 4:30 p.m. 

Friday night’s session will feature the championship contests with the girls tournament championship game set for 6 p.m. and the boys tournament championship game set for 7:30 p.m.

Admission will be $5 per person each day. No local passes will be honored.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the girls tournament. The Halifax County High School varsity girls team will be trying to land its fourth Holiday Classic title next week.

The Comets girls team has made it to the championship game in eight of the nine years the tournament has been held, but did not win its first tournament title until 2008. Halifax County lost to Laurel Park in 2003, fell to Bassett in 2004 and lost to Person High School in each of the next two years. In 2007, Bassett defeated the Comets in the title game to win its second tournament title.

In 2008, the Comets finally managed to break the string of losses last year by defeating Bassett High School 56-47 in the tournament championship game. In 2009 and 2010, the Comets defeated Person High School to win the tournament championship.

Last year the Comets girls team was upset in the opening round of the tournament, falling to Gretna High School in overtime. It was the only time the Comets have failed to make it into the tournament finals.

The Halifax County High School boys basketball team will be trying to turn the tables on its Holiday Classic fortunes next week and land the Holiday Classic trophy. Halifax County High School won the tournament two years in a row before Person High School snapped the Comets’ streak in 2010.

In 2008, the Halifax County High School boys team broke a long dry spell in the tournament by defeating Person High School 67-61 in the tournament championship game to take the tournament title. Prior to that, the Comets had not won the tournament championship since 2004, falling to Person High School in 2005 and 2006 and losing to Bassett High School in 2007.

Person (N.C.) High School has won the tournament each of the past two years, but will not be in the field this year to make an attempt at a third straight championship.

The Comets and Person High School have become familiar figures in the quest for the Holiday Classic Tournament title. In 12 of the last 13 years, the tournament championship has been decided between the two border rivals.

The Halifax County High School Holiday Classic has produced a lot of good basketball action throughout the years.

In the inaugural tournament in 1994, Bluestone edged Halifax County 62-60 in a nail-biter of a game. In 1996, the title game between Person High and Halifax County ended up in a tie at the end of regulation with the Comets going on to edge the Rockets by five points in overtime.

The 1997 title game, another contest between the Rockets and the Comets, was a dandy, too, with Halifax County edging Person High School 46-45.

In the 1998 tournament, Laurel Park and Halifax County engaged each other in a tight game with Laurel Park pulling out a 59-58 win.

The following year, in 1999, Halifax County and Person High squared off in another rematch for the tournament title with the visiting Rockets edging the Comets 56-55 in a game that was a nail biter down to the end. The 2000 tournament championship game was a good one as well with Halifax County shading Person High 52-46.

Last year Park View High School and the Pamlico County (N.C.) Hurricanes 52-49 battled down to the wire in the tournament consolation game, with Park View High School emerging with a 52-49 win. 

Holiday Classic championship games can hardly get more exciting than those of recent years when Halifax County and Person High School battled each other in games that were decided in the waning seconds.

The Comets edged Person High 68-67 to win the 2003 championship and repeated in 2004 by downing the Rockets 65-62 in another game that went down to the wire. The 2005 championship game continued that tradition with Person High edging the Comets 53-50 in a game that was decided in the final 20 seconds.

In 2009, the Comets and Rockets needed an overtime period to decide the championship, with the Comets winning the game 62-55.

The most lopsided of the tournament title games came in 2007, when Bassett High School routed the Comets 75-48. Prior to that, the most lopsided tournament championship game had been the 2006 contest when Person High School defeated Halifax County 69-52.

This year’s Halifax County High School Holiday Classic will continue a long-standing tradition of Christmas time basketball action, which began in 1993 as the First Federal Savings Bank Christmas Classic.

Everything was set and ready to go that year with Halifax County, Bluestone, E.C. Glass, and Heritage representing the tournament field. Unfortunately, a major snowstorm that swept into the area forced cancellation of the tournament.

As a result, the 1994 season marked the actual start of the affair with Halifax County, Laurel Park, Person High, and Northern Durham squaring off to determine the tournament title.

The 1994 event also marked Halifax County High School’s return to holiday tournament play after a four-year hiatus.

Prior to that, the Comets played in the tournament’s forerunner, the Virginia-Carolina Christmas Classic.

For the better part of two decades, the Virginia-Carolina Christmas Classic was a staple for area high school basketball fans.

A joint venture between Halifax County High School and Person High School, which hosted the tournament in alternating years, the Virginia-Carolina Classic had its share of classic contests as well.

The last of the Virginia-Carolina Christmas Classics was in 1990, a year when E.C. Glass defeated the Comets 66-63 in the title game.

That game marked something of an unusual contest in that the team with the worst record entering the tournament won the tournament title.

Person High School won eight Virginia-Carolina Christmas Classic titles throughout the years.

Halifax County scored five title wins and Northern Durham had three. E.C. Glass’ victory in the 1990 title contest was its first championship in the holiday title.