Classic

The Halifax County High School gym was packed with fans for the start of the championship game of the Gazette-Virginian Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament last year. This year’s tournament, the 25th annual event, tips off Thursday at Halifax County High School.

The Halifax County High School boys and girls basketball teams will be looking to get back into championship contention Thursday when the 25th Annual Gazette-Virginian Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament tips off at Halifax County High School.

This season marks the sixth straight year for the Gazette-Virginian as the tournament sponsor.

For the Halifax County High School boys team, which enters the tournament with a 7-1 record, the focus is to regain its spot as the tournament champion. Last year the Comets boys team saw a four-year championship streak broken by Person High School in the tournament championship game.

With the Halifax County High School girls basketball team off to a solid start this season with a 5-3 record, the Comets are hoping to make some noise this season. Last season the Comets girls lost in the first round and bounced back to win third place.

The Comets want much more this time around and are hoping for a shot at winning the championship for the first time since 2013.

The lineup of participating teams in the Gazette-Virginian Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament is the same as last year, including the boys and girls teams from Person High School in Roxboro, North Carolina, Bluestone High School in Skipwith, Gretna High School in Gretna and Halifax County High School.

While the lineup of participating teams is the same as last year, this year’s opening-round matchups have been switched. Both the Comets girls and boys teams will face Bluestone High School in the opening round on Thursday. Person High School’s boys and girls teams will face Gretna High School in the first round.

On Friday, the girls and boys consolation games will tip off at 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. respectively, with the girls tournament championship game set for 6 p.m. and the boys tournament championship game set for 7:30 p.m.

Admission will be $6 per person each day. No local passes will be honored.

When it comes to tournament titles, the Halifax County High School’s boys team has won the championship four of the past five years.

On the girls side, Person High School and Gretna High School have each won the tournament title twice over the past four years. Halifax County High School’s girls team has not won the tournament since 2013.

This year marks the 16th year of the girls tournament. The Comets girls team has made it to the championship game in 11 of the 15 years the tournament has been held, but did not win its first tournament title until 2008. Halifax County High School lost to Laurel Park in 2003, fell to Bassett in 2004 and lost to Person High School in each of the next two years. In 2007, Bassett High School defeated the Comets in the title game to win its second tournament title.

In 2008, the Comets finally managed to break the string of losses by defeating Bassett High School 56-47 in the tournament championship game. In 2009 and 2010, the Comets defeated Person High School to win the tournament championship.

After failing to make it to the championship game in 2011, the Comets got back on track in 2012, defeating Park View High School in the opening round and defeating Person (N.C.) High School in the title game. The Comets followed by winning the championship again in 2013 over Person (N.C.) High School.

In 2014, Gretna High School won its first Gazette-Virginian Holiday Classic title with a convincing 55-26 win over the Comets. The Lady Hawks now have two Holiday Classic championships in hand.

The Halifax County High School boys basketball team will be trying to make it five Holiday Classic championships in six seasons after having lost to Person High School for the tournament crown last season. The Comets downed Park View High School in 2014 and Person High School in 2013.

Prior to the 2013 championship win, the Comets had suffered through a three-year drought. Halifax County High School won the tournament two years in a row before Person High School snapped the Comets’ streak in 2010.

In 2008, the Halifax County High School boys team broke a long dry spell in the tournament by defeating Person (N.C.) High School 67-61 in the tournament championship game to take the tournament title. Prior to that, the Comets had not won the tournament championship since 2004, falling to Person High School in 2005 and 2006 and losing to Bassett High School in 2007.

Person (N.C.) High School won the tournament in 2010 and 2011 and 2017, but did not participate in the 2012 event. Park View High School won the 2012 tournament title with a 75-62 win over the Comets.

The Comets and Person High School have become familiar figures in the quest for the Holiday Classic Tournament title. In 14 of the last 18 years, the tournament championship has been decided between the two border rivals.

The Halifax County High School Holiday Classic has produced a lot of good basketball action throughout the years.

In the inaugural tournament in 1994, Bluestone High School edged Halifax County 62-60 in a nail-biter of a game. In 1996, the title game between Person High and Halifax County ended up in a tie at the end of regulation with the Comets going on to edge the Rockets by five points in overtime.

The 1997 title game, another contest between the Rockets and the Comets, was a dandy, too, with Halifax County edging Person High School 46-45.

In the 1998 tournament, Laurel Park and Halifax County engaged each other in a tight game with Laurel Park pulling out a 59-58 win.

The following year, in 1999, Halifax County and Person High squared off in another rematch for the tournament title with the visiting Rockets edging the Comets 56-55 in a game that was a nail biter down to the end. The 2000 tournament championship game was a good one as well with Halifax County shading Person High 52-46.

In 2011, Park View High School and the Pamlico County (N.C.) Hurricanes battled down to the wire in the tournament consolation game, with Park View High School emerging with a 52-49 win.

Holiday Classic championship games can hardly get more exciting than those of recent years when Halifax County and Person High School battled each other in games that were decided in the waning seconds.

The Comets edged Person High 68-67 to win the 2003 championship and repeated in 2004 by downing the Rockets 65-62 in another game that went down to the wire. The 2005 championship game continued that tradition with Person High edging the Comets 53-50 in a game that was decided in the final 20 seconds.

In 2009, the Comets and Rockets needed an overtime period to decide the championship, with the Comets winning the game 62-55.

The most lopsided of the tournament title games came in 2007, when Bassett High School routed the Comets 75-48. Prior to that, the most lopsided tournament championship game had been the 2006 contest when Person High School defeated Halifax County 69-52.

This year’s Gazette-Virginian Holiday Classic continues a long-standing tradition of Christmas time basketball action, which began in 1993 as the First Federal Savings Bank Christmas Classic.

Everything was set and ready to go that year with Halifax County, Bluestone, E.C. Glass, and Heritage representing the tournament field. Unfortunately, a major snowstorm that swept into the area forced cancellation of the tournament.

As a result, the 1994 season marked the actual start of the affair with Halifax County, Laurel Park, Person High, and Northern Durham squaring off to determine the tournament title.

The 1994 event also marked Halifax County High School’s return to holiday tournament play after a four-year hiatus.

Prior to that, the Comets played in the tournament’s forerunner, the Virginia-Carolina Christmas Classic.

For the better part of two decades, the Virginia-Carolina Christmas Classic was a staple for area high school basketball fans.

A joint venture between Halifax County High School and Person High School, which hosted the tournament in alternating years, the Virginia-Carolina Classic had its share of classic contests as well.

The last of the Virginia-Carolina Christmas Classics was in 1990, a year when E.C. Glass defeated the Comets 66-63 in the title game.

That game marked something of an unusual contest in that the team with the worst record entering the tournament won the tournament title.

Person High School won eight Virginia-Carolina Christmas Classic titles throughout the years.

Halifax County scored five title wins and Northern Durham had three. E.C. Glass’ victory in the 1990 title contest was its first championship in the holiday title.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com