Holiday hoops tournaments tipoff today

SALISBURY, Md. – For local high school hoops fans, the best present they receive this holiday season might come a day or two after Christmas.

On Dec. 26, the 34th annual Governor’s Challenge is set to tipoff at multiple Salisbury, Md., locations. A day later marks the beginning of the Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes.

Sussex Tech is one of four Henlopen teams playing in the Governor's Challenge. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Sussex Tech is one of four Henlopen teams playing in the Governor’s Challenge. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

“There’s not really dialog going between the two events, but we’re aware that we are helping each one another,” said Governor’s Challenge Tournament Director James Simmons. “It’s great for a college coach. They can go to our event one day, theirs another day and really see everything right here.”

Wicomico High boys’ basketball coach Butch Waller began the Salisbury-based tournament in 1981 as a means to play teams outside of the area. Four Maryland schools took the court for the inaugural event – WiHi, Crisfield, Dematha and St. John’s.

This year’s Governor’s Challenge will have 100 teams out of six different states and Washington, D.C., playing from Dec. 26-30. Four of them – boys’ teams from Sussex Tech, Polytech, Delmar and Caesar Rodney – are out of the Henlopen Conference. Parkside, JM Bennett and, of course, WiHi will all send their boys’ teams into the field, as will Salisbury School.

Girls’ teams from each of the three public Salisbury schools are also in the Challenge’s steadily growing field, which this year reached 20 participants.

“When coach Waller started this tournament it was all about getting the local schools a chance to play someone else,” said Simmons, adding that a scheduling conflict kept several Henlopen South teams from the Governor’s Challenge this winter. “For every local team there’s about three or four out of town teams now. That’s what we are trying to continue and grow, so I’m absolutely looking to get them back in the tournament eventually.”


Due to its tremendous growth over the last few years – this year’s field makes up the second largest high school basketball tournament in the country – the Governor’s Challenge is now played at four locations. Chief amongst them is the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, where there will be two courts hosting games. WiHi, Bennett and Parkside will also host tournament contests.

Admission is $10 daily or $30 for the entire tournament (children 10-and-under are free with a paying adult) and can be bought at the door or at, where a host of other information about the event can be found as well. The week-long pass can only be bought at the door on the Challenge’s opening day.

Both types of admission grant spectators access to any and all of the four hosting sites.

On the court

Kings Christian and Worcester Prep tip the tournament off at the Civic Center on Dec. 26 at 10 a.m. Later that day, at approximately 5 p.m., the same court will see WiHi and Polytech play a game that many were clamoring for last year when both were considered amongst their respective state’s elite teams.

“Everyone wanted to see it last year, unfortunately it didn’t but it’s happening this year,” Simmons said. “It’s two brand new teams, pretty much, but I still expect that one to be competitive and it’s really going to mean something to people around here with Maryland and Delaware playing.”

Perhaps the biggest matchup of the event will fall on Dec. 28 at approximately 6 p.m. when Legacy Charter (S.C.), ranked by as the 66th best team in the nation, will take on Virginia Academy.

A full schedule can be found on the Governor’s Challenge aforementioned website.

More than just hoops

With so many basketball games going on, it’s easy to experience a bit of overload.

That in mind, the Governor’s Challenge will continue its efforts to engage attendees in multiple ways. Included in those are hosting a three-point and skills challenge as well as a slam dunk contest.

Not only that, but the event will have multiple sponsor-driven giveaways and contests for fans throughout each day. Prizes include gift cards from Buffalo Wild Wings and Dick’s Sporting Goods; event t-shirts, free concessions vouchers and more.

Those in attendance can also sign up for multiple door prizes such as Washington Wizards tickets, NBA and/or NCAA jerseys and gift cards.

Also back by popular demand will be the student-section contest, “it really added to the atmosphere and made it even more fun,” Simmons said.

“Delmarva’s really becoming a capitol for basketball over the holidays,” said Simmons, who added that overall the Challenge’s economic impact on the Salisbury-area will reach $1.2 million. “It’s all based around basketball, but there’s a lot going on for people to enjoy.”


Slam Dunk to the Beach

Back for its second year following a lengthy hiatus, Slam Dunk to the Beach is set to begin Dec. 27 at Cape Henlopen High School.

Following in its tradition, Slam Dunk will again feature some of the nation’s most prominent teams and players. Six teams that finished inside the USA Today Final 2015 national rankings – Roman Catholic (16), Roselle Catholic (20), Neumann-Goretti (22), La Lumiere School (30), Christ the King (36) and St. Benedict’s Prep (44) – are all in this year’s field.

Locally, host Cape Henlopen and Dover are playing in this year’s Slam Dunk as well.

The tournament will run through Dec. 29 and event passes are available at multiple price points. More information, as well as scheduling, a list of the ESPN top 100 players participating in Slam Dunk and more can be found at

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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