We’re on the verge of another communal tradition that brings together thousands and transcends race, religion and class.
That event being the Moir Christmas Classic. Not quite Christmas, but it’s a three-day extravaganza of hoops that hoopsters look forward to every year.
The 42nd edition of the vaunted holiday basketball tournament begins Thursday after locals finish off the egg nog.
This year’s edition runs from the 26th through the 28th. Most years, it runs from the 28th to the 30th. With the tournament starting the day after Christmas, teams won’t be able to get a practice in before the first day. Although it presents a problem for coaches hoping for a chance to work out the kinks, the Thursday-Friday-Saturday setup is ideal for attendance.
“We figure by Friday and Saturday, everyone is tired of family,” West Rowan athletic director Todd Bell said. “They want to get out of the house. We figured we’d have a bigger gate on Saturday night.”
Big gates are something that’s never been a problem. That was especially evident last year when the entrance to Goodman Gym was locked before the boys championship game. It was fire marshal’s orders after attendance broke records. A hyped matchup between the North Rowan and Davie County boys equaled a capacity turnout of roughly 3,000.
“Last year was definitely the biggest crowd we’ve ever had,” South Rowan athletic director Angie Chrismon said. “It was a memorable tournament.”
Basketball was Ronnie Gallagher’s favorite sport and the late sports editor was always a fan of the Moir. This year, he’ll be commemorated with an award named after him following the championship games. ‘The Ronz’ will be given to a player on the runner-up team that exudes character, grit and sportsmanship. Bell says the trophy will be presented by the Gallagher family.
“I thought about it during the memorial service for Ronnie,” Bell said. “I thought there’s got to be some way we can recognize Ronnie for what he did for kids in the county. The Christmas Tournament is the biggest platform for him to be recognized at.”
As always, there’ll be an all-tournament team and an MVP selected by media.
The North Rowan boys and the East Rowan girls are the No. 1 seeds. North hasn’t played since a surprising 67-49 defeat to Mooresville on Dec. 12. Since the Cavaliers get a bye Thursday, it’ll have been over two weeks between games. North (4-1) will play the winner of South Rowan and Salisbury Friday night.
“I’ve got mixed feelings,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “We’ve got some football guys that haven’t had much time to rest. We’ve got some things we need to work on. Overall, I’ll take the break.”
The teams have to acclimate to a college-size court, which is about 10 feet longer than most of the high school floors around here. The added space can help a team like North that utilizes a frantic pace that’s conducive to an open floor.
“That extra 10 feet makes a world of difference,” Mitchell said.
West Rowan (6-3) is the No. 2 seed, having beaten other 6-3 teams Carson and Salisbury. The Falcons had the inside track for the No. 1 seed before being upset by East Rowan last week.
In the girls’ bracket, East (9-0) and North (4-0) are the top two seeds. North hasn’t won the Moir since 2002 and East last won it in 2001. The Cavalier girls also haven’t played in two weeks. In eight of its nine wins, East has prevailed by double digits.
The tournament will pair with Rowan Helping Ministries and hold a “Hoops for Hunger” food drive. Each school will have a food bin in the lobby to collect cans.
There’s still six games for all three days. Last year, six games were able to get done in a timely matter. That’s helpful.
“The biggest thing is if your early games run over, you never catch up,” Bell said. “If you get behind, you can shorten halftime by a minute or two. You can shorten the warmups, little strategies like that.”
Catawba athletic director Dennis Davidson directed the tournament from 1996 to 2011. This is likely Davidson’s last year helping out. He’ll do some PA and general supervision. Over the years, Davidson has covered the Moir as a spectator, a tournament director, a reporter with the Post and a building supervisor.
“We always like to roll out the red carpet and continue a great tradition since 1971,” Davidson said. “I’ve been going to it since I was in high school.”