Westover Super 6er Kel Miller, right, flies to the rim during last week’s rivalry matchup against Monroe. The Pats and the Tornadoes could meet again this weekend in the title game of the U Save It Tournament. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — They started it back in 1958, and it’s been a holiday staple in the Good Life City for decades with different names and different teams over the years. U Save It Pharmacy has sponsored the tournament for the last four years, and once again it is sponsoring the only holiday tournament in Albany.
This year’s U Save It Pharmacy Boys Basketball Tournament tips off today at Albany High and concludes Saturday night at the Civic Center, where the two surviving teams will play for the title.
All four city teams are in the eight-team tournament, and there’s a chance Monroe and Westover could meet in the title game. The Herald’s No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams are on opposite sides of the bracket.
“I think that’s what people are talking about,’’ said Dr. James Little, the tournament’s organizer and legendary basketball coach from Monroe. “If it’s Monroe and Westover (in the title game), it will be a big crowd.’’
The first two days of the tournament will be played at Albany High, where Dougherty plays Webster County in the opener at 4 p.m. today, then Westover faces Manchester at 5:30 p.m. in what could be one of the best games of the tournament. Manchester played in the Class AA state title game last year, and Westover, which won the tournament last year on a last-second shot that beat Albany High, has arguably its best team since going to the Final Four in 2010.
Albany High meets Statesboro in the 7 p.m. game today, and Herald No. 1 Monroe, which is unbeaten and coming off a huge 70-63 win against Westover last Friday, faces Class A powerhouse Terrell County in the 8:30 p.m. game.
Friday’s games begin at 4 p.m. with the losers of the Dougherty/Webster and Monroe/Terrell County games playing in the consolation bracket. The winners of those games meet in the semifinals at 7 p.m.
The winners of the Westover/Manchester and Albany/Statesboro games meet at 8:30 p.m. in the semifinals and the losers of those games face each other in the consolation bracket at 5:30 p.m.
The consolation final (for fifth place) is Saturday in the Civic Center at 4 p.m., followed by the third-place game, with the title game scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.
In recent years, the tournament has used a classic format in which all the games were set up in advance, but the organizers went back to a tournament format last year.
“I talk to coaches, and they like the tournament atmosphere,’’ Little said. “It gives the kids even more to play for. The best thing about the tournament is it gets teams ready for the state tournament later in the year, and (the teams) like playing the (finals) in the Civic Center. When you get into the state playoffs, you’re playing in a big arena, and this gives you a chance to play (a tournament game) in a big arena. It’s inviting for the kids.’’
Last year’s tournament ran into problems with the GHSA and all the teams were fined $200 each because the tournament had not been sanctioned with the GHSA,
Kenneth Goseer, the assistant superintendent of the Dougherty County School System, said Wednesday that won’t happen again.
“We made sure all those problems are taken care of,’’ Goseer said. “We made sure the tournament is sanctioned.’’