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January 20, 2018
Camden News
Eyes on the prize
Camden Fairview's Tre Dennis (4) eyes a Dequeen player during a recent game. The Cardinals and Lady Cardinals will compete in the C.F. Holiday Classics starting on Thursday.

Eyes on the prize Camden Fairview's Tre Dennis (4) eyes a Dequeen player during a recent game. The Cardinals and Lady Cardinals will compete in the C.F. Holiday Classics starting on Thursday.

Column: Tournament history, matchups continue to entertain years later

By Patric Flannigan
This article was published December 27, 2017 at 3:27 p.m.

— On Thursday, a total of 16 different teams will participate in the 25th Annual Camden Fairview Holiday Classic with the mindset that maybe, just maybe, there's still a gift that hasn't been opened yet.

Several changes have been made to improve the tournament this year. While the price of admissions has increased to $7, fans will be treated to eight games on each day starting as early as 10 a.m. Instead of the tournament starting the day after Christmas, as it has in previous years, it starts three days after and will end on the weekend, so those that may have to work through the week will get the opportunity to at least catch the championship games on Saturday.

The Holiday Classics has played a significant role in the community since it began in 1993. Camden doesn't have a mall or movie theater (as of now) for people that are traveling home for the holidays to enjoy. That place for holiday family and fun time has always been the Holiday Classics. Alumni, not only from Camden Fairview but from surrounding cities, come and enjoy the action and reminisce on old times. The environment is always safe thanks to the presence of local law enforcement and the tournament is always well organized thanks to dedicated school administrators and coaches.

Then there is always a moment or two that stands out at every single C.F. Holiday Classic. One of my own favorite moments came in 2004 when Dwight Page scored 30 points and hit a big three in the last minute of a double overtime game to win the Cardinals first Holiday Classic Title since 2000 over 5A South rival El Dorado. The Wildcats were undefeated and the house was packed. Plus, who can forget the Wildcat player that threw up on the court in the fourth quarter?

The tournament has brought us many moments like that one in the past and has came a long way since its inception.

The Invitational in 1993

"The Classics" was known as the Camden Fairview Invitational Tournament in 1993. There were only four girl teams - C.F., Harmony Grove, Prescott and Magnolia - and 8 boy teams - C.F., H.G., Magnolia, Hope, Emerson, Bearden, Fordyce and Prescott. The games were played at R.H. Shaddock Field House which is on the campus of the Ouachita County Recreational Center. The site is also the future home of the Southern Arkansas University Tech Rockets Basketball team.

Both the Lady Cardinals and Cardinals won the inaugural tournament. Larry Gore's Cardinals were led by Kevon Trotter, Spencer Lewis, Rod Jackson and Keyon Spencer and entered the tournament with only one loss in the early season. In the finals, C.F. defeated Magnolia 51-48. The Lady Cardinals were coached by Karen Shofner and were winless before stunning an undefeated H.G. team and defeating Magnolia 55-33 in the finals. LaKristal Gordon and Christa Washington were dominate for C.F. throughout the tournament.

Another highlight from that tournament was a thrilling come from behind win by Frankie Gathen's Bearden Bears over the Fordyce Redbugs in the consolation game. The Bears trailed by 13 with less than five minutes left but won on a last second layup 64-62. Dallas Morris, Jonathan Thompson and Paul Hall put in a big game to help the Bears win.

Tournament titles

The Lady Cardinals won the tournament three consecutive times on two occasions - from 1993-95 and again from 2006-2008. The latter run included back-to-back 5A State Titles.

The El Dorado Lady Wildcats tie the Lady Cardinals in Holiday Classic titles after winning six times in the last eight years. Little Rock Parkview girls are third in tournament history with four titles (2002-2005).

Camden Fairview boys have won the tournament 10 times. with its last Holiday Classic title coming in 2013. El Dorado is second in tournament history with four titles followed by J.A. Fair with three. C.F. compiled an impressive tournament run from 2008-2011.

Rivalries and bracket break down

While this year's classic is missing a historic rival (maybe they're scared) the tournament will still offer big moments.

C.F. Head girls coach Johnny Jackson has a team full of juniors and sophomores that are used to success in junior high. The Lady Cardinals already hold wins over El Dorado and Magnolia and it is just a game or two from finding a rhythm. TaiSheka Porchia has been a standout student athlete for the Lady Cardinals as Anna Dawson and Jayla Jackson have quarterbacked the offense. Alexis Askew and Grace Tidwell are forces on the defensive end while Christinia Gibbs and Takari Glover can score from the outside.

Bearden Head Girls coach Roy Murray has his best team since 2015 thanks to an impressive sophomore class and the return of Evie Porter. The record doesn't indicate how dangerous the team is.

The other teams in the girls bracket are Little Rock Central, Joe T. Robinson, Warren, North Webster and Magnolia.

The boys bracket is loaded with potential rivalry games.

C.F. is led by first year Head Coach Josh Nix. The Cardinals have shown promise early but a spacey schedule has made it difficult for the Cardinals to establish a rhythm. So far, C.J. Mitchell, Tarrion Thompson, Qwaishawn Thompson and Niles Smith have been the teams biggest scorers with Tre Dennis and Dalvonte Lewis providing a big lift for the team off the bench.

Anthony Hammonds' Bearden Bears are led by an outstanding senior class that won the outright 8-2A title for the first time since the early 90's last season. Seniors Tyler Berry and Dee Hughes are capable of tallying a double-double on any given night.

In order for Bearden to win that outright title last year, it had to defeat Dermott. Dermott is another team with speed that can get up and down the court and has a supportive crowd that travels well. The team is 9-2 on the season.

Similar to C.F. and Bearden, Magnolia is a 5A school and Nevada and Lafayette County would like to prove a point against a bigger team.

Other teams in the boys bracket are Pine Bluff Dollarway and Fordyce.

The brackets can be found in Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 editions of the Camden News and on the Camden News Facebook page along with a fan poll.

Be sure to get to the tournament early with your friends and family so you don't miss a moment.

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