The “Twelve Days of Christmas” can mean several things to several people.
However, for area high school basketball fans, it can mean plenty of quality matchups on the hardwood.
A two-week run of area high school basketball tournaments tip off today when the Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Invitational begins at the Columbus High Gym. in Maben, West Oktibbeha will be hosting the West Oktibbeha Christmas Shootout.
After Christmas, 2011 will officially be closed out with the Travis Outlaw Invitational hosted by Starkville High at Mississippi State’s Humphrey Coliseum.
“It is really fun to play in these holiday tournaments,” Starkville boys coach Greg Carter said. “They are a measuring stick for where you want to be as a program.
“It is chance to step outside of region play and face some elite competition.”
The top-ranked Yellow Jackets will take on Provine and Ridgeway, Tenn., at the Horne Classic.
While Provine is a traditional basketball power in the state, Ridgeway enters tournament play with a national ranking by its name.
“We are taking it one game at a time and these are two challenges,” Carter said. “Though I have not seen either team play, I know that both teams are real good.
“We will have our hands full.”
The tournament gets underway with defending Class 4A state champion Lawrence County facing the Starkville girls at 3 p.m. today.
“We are looking to forward to a big challenge,” SHS girls coach Kristie Williams said. “We have played quite a number of good teams already.
“Now, we face two really quality opponents on back-to-back nights in a tournament setting. That is that you want. It will help this team grow.
It is the type of competition that Columbus boys coach Sammy Smith tries to provide each year in this two-day event.
“We have built one of the elite basketball tournaments in the southeast,” Columbus coach Sammy Smith said. “The community is very supportive and that is why we have a showcase event.”
While 17 games will be played in Columbus, West Oktibbeha welcomes seven schools to its campus.
“This tournament is an exciting opportunity for our team,” West Oktibbeha coach Danny Crawford said. “We are looking forward to a couple of great nights of basketball.”
The Timberwolves enter tournament play at 8-2 overall. For West Oktibbeha, its lone losses have been to Class 6A foe Columbus and Class 4A Noxubee County.
The Timberwolves made amends for the loss to Noxubee County with a 72-54 triumph over the Tigers Tuesday night in Maben.
“Playing some bigger schools has really helped this team grow and mature this year,” Crawford said. “I think we will come out real aggressive and ready to roll Friday night.”
West Oktibbeha posted a solid 72-54 win over Noxubee County Tuesday night.
Both New Hope squads will face Aberdeen in Saturday’s final-round play in Maben.
After winning six games last season, the New Hope girls are off to a 10-0 start this year. Meanwhile, the Trojans are 5-3 after posting a 76-64 win over Caledonia Thursday night.
The Joe Horne Classic will also have an out-of-state flavor to it as the tournament field also includes Gadsden, Midfield, Holt and Tuscaloosa Central from Alabama, as well as Ridgeway.
“This is a unique opportunity to play somebody outside of your region,” Smith said. “You see up close and personal the types of teams you will have to play at the state tournament in Jackson.
“A lot of hard work goes into this event but is very satisfying and rewarding.”
Joe Horne Classic (at Columbus High)
Admission: $7 per day (good for all games)
Girls: Lawrence County vs. Starkville, 3 p.m.
Girls: Callaway vs. Noxubee County, 3:40 p.m. (Gym 2)
Boys: Gadsden, Ala. vs. Jackson Wingfield, 4:20 p.m.
Boys: Midfield, Ala. vs. Noxubee County, 5 p.m. (Gym 2)
Girls: Wingfield at Columbus, 5:40 p.m.
Boys: Lawrence County at Columbus, 7 p.m.
Boys: Jackson Provine vs. Starkville, 8:20 p.m.
Boys: Midfield, Ala. vs. Jackson Wingfield, noon
Girls: New Albany vs. Starkville, 1 p.m. (Gym 2)
Boys: Madison Central vs. Kemper County, 1:20 p.m.
Boys: Holt, Ala. vs. Meridian 2:20 p.m. (Gym 2)
Girls: Jackson Wingfield vs. Southaven, 2:40 p.m.
Boys: Jackson Provine vs. Lawrence County, 3:40 p.m. (Gym 2)
Boys: Jackson Callaway vs. Gadsden, Ala., 4 p.m.
Girls: Lawrence County at Columbus, 5:20 p.m.
Boys: Tuscaloosa Central, Ala. at Columbus, 6:40 p.m.
Boys: Ridgeway (Memphis), Tenn. vs. Starkville, 8 p.m.
West Oktibbeha Tournament
Girls: East Oktibbeha vs. Aberdeen, 4:30 p.m.
Boys: East Oktibbeha vs. Aberdeen, 6 p.m.
Girls: West Lowndes at West Oktibbeha, 7:30 p.m.
Boys: West Lowndes at West Oktibbeha, 9 p.m.
Girls: West Lowndes vs. Hamilton, noon
Boys: West Lowndes vs. Hamilton, 1:30 p.m.
Boys: Scott Central vs. H.W. Byers, 3 p.m.
Girls: Aberdeen vs. New Hope, 4:30 p.m.
Boys: Aberdeen vs. New Hope, 6 p.m.
Girls: East Oktibbeha at West Oktibbeha, 7:30 p.m.
Boys: East Oktibbeha at West Oktibbeha, 9 p.m.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.