As the holidays approach, you can count on a number of things. You can count on hearing Christmas carols on the radio, you can count on the stores being busy with holiday shoppers, and you can count on CBS showing the Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Another thing you can count on during the holiday season is the Minden Holiday Classic.
For the 21st year, the Edward Jones Investments Minden Holiday Classic will provide area basketball enthusiasts with a full slate of quality tournament games as they await the arrival of ole Saint Nick.
The Classic will begin this Wednesday and will run through Saturday night. Twenty-nine teams from 18 schools will take part in the tournament. Games will be played in the new Minden High gym, the old Minden High gym and the Webster Jr. High gym.
"From top to bottom, it's going to be hard to find a tournament with as many good teams as we have this year," Minden High head coach Alan Shaw said. "There will be a number of quality games for everyone to come out and see. There should be some real quality basketball games over the four days and we hope everyone will come out and watch."
Lady Tider head coach jacob Brown echoed Shaw's thoughts.
"I think this tournament is going to be as good as we could have hoped to have," he said. "We're going to have a very good field, from Class A schools to 5A, and that's something that is unique about our tournament."
This year's tournament will feature the boys and girls teams from Minden, Lakeside, North Webster, Ringgold, Red River, Jonesboro-Hodge, Lakeview, Huntington, Woodlawn, Captain Shreve and Haynesville.
Also the girls' teams from Southwood, Calvary, Arcadia , Byrd and Benton will compete, as well as the boys' team from North Caddo and El Dorado, Arkansas.
"We have another very deep field this year," Shaw said. "There a number of teams to beat. Huntington would probably be the favorite and Woodlawn is very, very good. And El Dorado is supposed to be a very big and good team. There will just be a lot of very quality basketball games in all three gyms."
Brown is excited by the teams in the girls bracket.
"There a number of good teams," he said. "Ringgold is a young team that always participates and we're glad they're back and we have Calvary and Haynesville coming back as well. Lakeview is always very athletic and they certainly can make a run through the tournament. Arcadia has one of the best players in the state and has been the Class A champ and runner up the last two years."
Brown also pointed out a first round match-up featuring two of the area's better players.
"North Webster and Carmela Specks will play Benton and Lulu Perry, so that's a big-time match-up there," he said. "Woodlawn is back and Red River is a very quality 2A school. Five-A Byrd is year-in and year-out a very good basketball team and we know how good Lakeside is. Huntington has one of the best post players around playing and Captain Shreve and Jonesboro-Hodge are both back. And of course, Southwood will be good."
Brown is also hoping his team will make some waves this week.
"I know our team is excited to be playing," he said. "We hope to play in the finals, we'll just have to see how things shake out, but we can't wait to get started."
Shaw thinks the boys' bracket is wide-open.
"There are probably six or seven teams that can win this thing," he said. "It's going to be a very competitive bracket. There will be a lot of quality ball games."
In addition to the good basketball the classic provides, there is also a more practical result. The classic is the main fund raiser for the Minden High basketball teams.
"This is our money-maker for the year," Shaw said. "This is where we make our money that helps us pay for the buses, the travel and the keep up of the gym. We also use the money for the uniforms, basketballs and paying the officials, everything that has to do with our basketball programs."
Most people don't understand just what it takes to put on a tournament of this size.
"We have so many people that volunteer to help with things," Shaw said. "And we couldn't pull it off without them. We have members of our faculty and administration that help out as well as people that keep the books and work the clock, just doing whatever needs to be done."
Brown hopes to see the stands packed this week.
"We hope the community comes out and supports the tournament," he said. "This is our big fund raiser and if you like basketball, I don't know why you wouldn't want to be there."
The games will begin Wednesday at 4 p.m. with gthree girls games, one at each of the gyms.