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It’s that time again, the day after Christmas

‘Twas the day after Christmas and all through the week.

There will be balls a-bouncing and sweatsocks will reek.

From 37 games played by boys and girls.

The Central Christmas Tournament is a whole different world.

So dash away, dash away, fans one and all,

To the T.J. Foulon Fieldhouse for some great basketball.

That’s right, the Bob Sechrest, Jr. 50th Annual Central Christmas Basketball Tournament will start bright and early on Monday morning at 8 a.m. The tournament is actually two-in-one with 16 boys’ teams in one tournament and eight girls’ team to play in the other. Thirty-seven games in all will be played over the five days, eight games each day except Thursday with has six and Friday with seven.

Friday’s games will include two consolation games, a fifth-place game, two third-place games and the two championship games.

The boys tournament has a rich heritage, and this year is very special as it will mark 50 years of existence. Flat River High School won the very first tournament in 1956, and it has been played the week after Christmas ever since.

Only 17 schools have been crowned champions of the boys tournament with De Soto leading overall with eight titles. (See Sunday’s Daily Journal for both brackets and a list of the previous winners.) Central/Flat River is next with six championships.

Farmington was last year’s winner and has hopes of doing it again despite being seeded fourth this year. The last school to win back-to back titles was De Soto, 2002-2003. The last MAAA Conference school to win back-to-back was North County, which is seeded sixth. (North County was accidentally left out of an earlier published list.)

Even though the MAAA Conference has more teams (7) represented in the tournament, schools from several conferences have participated in the past years. This year, teams from four conferences are entered.

The tournament originated with eight teams and eight games and had only a championship bracket. One loss and a team was out. The teams were eventually expanded to 16 and in 1995 the format changed when a consolation bracket was added.

In 1998 the tournament took on a whole new look. The fifth place bracket was added to insure every team of having to lose two games before being eliminated from winning a place in the tournament.

The big difference in the 1998 tournament, though, was the addition of the girls tournament. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of Central’s girls tournament as it was played in January for its first 12 years of existence having only four teams at that time.

Central won the first tournament in 1985 and the last four-team tournament in 1998 at the start of the year before winning the first eight-team tournament at the end of the year. Central owns the most championships in the girls tournament with six, but since their inception to the tournament, St. James has won for the past four years.

Central High School elected to name the tournament in 2001 after the late Bob Sechrest, Jr., who had served the school on its board and other various capacities.

Bob Sechrest, Sr. was Flat River’s Athletic Director and was the organizer of the first tournament in 1956. He was also the coach of the Bears which won the tournament that year.

Playing on the 1956 team as an underclassmen was Harvey Faircloth, the present announcer for the Central Rebels and Lady Rebels. Sechrest, Sr., Faircloth and others of the 1956 Bears team will be honored in a special ceremony on Friday.

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