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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mattoon Tourney History

Mattoon is one of the oldest girls basketball tourneys in Illinois- it is on its 35th year...

From the Mattoon Newspaper...

MATTOON – Starting with a revamped field for what was going to be a Big 12 Conference tournament and living through roof damage to the high school gym, Mattoon’s Girls’ Basketball Christmas Tournament hits its 35th year this week.
 In fact, in a time when some tourneys struggle to keep the field full of varsity teams, Mattoon doesn’t seem to have that worry.
“Every tournament that we host, we usually have one or two teams on a waiting list,” said Dave Vieth, the most recent of several athletic directors who have overseen this event.
He isn’t claiming this to be the school district’s accomplishment all by itself.
“If it wasn’t for tourism helping we might not be able to do it because when we went to a three-man officiating crew for every game, that raised our expenses,” Vieth said. “The tourism committee helped us out, and the tournament has been able to survive in the black. They are a big help with us in the tournament.”
Tourism has benefited as well with plenty of visitors in town the last week of December.
That includes some distant travelers including tourney newcomer Galesburg making the switch from the Charleston tourney which still has a girls’ tourney that used to coincide with a boys’ event that disbanded three years ago.
“Initially we went because of the opportunity to play in same tourney with our boys, which made it really a positive experience,” Galesburg coach Evan Massey said of the Charleston tourney. “We were very happy with Charleston and felt it was good competition. There was some uncertainty about the future of the tourney so we looked. We are excited about getting the chance to go to Mattoon. We have heard very good things about the tourney. Several years ago Coach (George) Reed brought Mattoon up to Galesburg to play in our tourney and we enjoyed their competition.”
Galesburg was just among the teams that have waited to join the Mattoon event.
“I think pool play certainly helps,” former Mattoon AD Gerald Temples said. “We would have teams come and stay overnight because they knew they were going to play ‘x’ number of games.”
Teams now are guaranteed five games in three days of the eight-team tournament that starts with pool play determining semifinal pairings for each of the entrants.
Sometimes this means playing a team twice in the same tournament but the positives outweigh that inconvenience.
“We talked about going to a four-game guarantee rather than five, and that would be cheaper with officials,” Vieth said. “But when we ask the coaches ‘they say, ‘Dave the reason we like coming to the Mattoon tournament is because we like playing five games over break.’ I think if they would have said they wanted just four games we would have made the switch.”
Former Mattoon coach Dwight Perry can remember when teams were just satisfied playing two games in a four-team tourney.
That wouldn’t work today.
“I think it’s the aspect of we want to play,” said Perry, who had two different stints as the Lady Green Wave coach. “We want to give those kids the most playing time. I think coaches will try to find as much playing time as they can for kids.”
Perry was Mattoon’s coach for the inaugural tourney in 1979 when Bloomington, Champaign Central, Danville, Steven Decatur, Paris, Springfield and Urbana joined Mattoon in an eight-team bracket.
This was a time when the IHSA girls’ state tournament followed the boys, and the girls’ season opened with the Christmas tourney.
Originally planned as a Big 12 tourney, Lincoln had a commitment at another tourney so Paris filled the bracket.
Mattoon beat Bloomington 43-39 for the first championship.
The tourney then had a time with just four teams playing two days in semifinals with losers playing for third place and winners for the championship.
“I know we were just trying to get started,” Perry said. “We started very small in hopes that we could grow and keep it going.”
It did grow, maybe not to one of those 16-team brackets but this current format for eight teams guarantees more games for each.
That change came while Steve Parker was the athletic director.
“Steve had that thing going and we just kind of took over the format Steve had going,” Temples said. “We had teams waiting to get in but all that is because of what Steve had going. When I took over I just ran it the way Steve did it and it worked like clockwork.”
During that time a storm caused roof damage to the Mattoon High School Gym in December forcing the tourney to move to Mattoon Middle School. That wasn’t all bad because the middle school had two gyms allowing for warm-ups before the high school added its auxiliary gym.
Vieth now carries the AD’s torch facing challenges that include scheduling and trying to come up with relatively competitive pools.
“We’re setting it up try to break it up to where the two best teams aren’t in the same pool,” Vieth said. “That’s hard to do sometimes and getting good teams in both pools. And with conference folks we’re not in the same pool as (Apollo member) Salem because we try to divide that.”
Running a tournament includes keeping visitors happy in other ways as well.
“You try to have a good hospitality room for the coaches and administrators,” Vieth said. “We give a small token of a gift, and (booster club president) Bob James is famous for giving teams a bag of candy.”
Trophies for the top five teams and all-tournament selections are sponsored by 19th Street Dairy Queen, Sheehan Construction and Harris Metals while probably countless others help in other ways.
“Again, I think it has to do with the community and administration,” said Perry, who while retired from teaching continues to coach tennis for Mattoon High School. “I know recently the tennis community came together and helped us. I think it’s kept us going. The parents have helped keep us keep going. I can’t see that changing.”
So the girls’ basketball tourney hits 35.
“I think the thing that appeals to me was having a tournament we could host and didn’t have to be on the road,” Perry said. “I just hope Mattoon High School never loses the tournament.”

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