MARIANNA, Fla. (WMBB) – It’s been decades since the last Jackson County Christmas basketball tournament, but this year the Marianna Optimist Club is bringing it back.
The Milton H. Johnson Optimist Club Invitational will take place Dec. 28-30 at Chipola College.
“I played in this tournament in 1989 and 1990, Sheriff Edenfield played in this tournament in 1989 and 1988, so this gym means a lot,” Optimist Club secretary and school board member Chris Johnson said.
Twelve teams total are participating in this year’s tournament, which includes all five Jackson County high school teams.
The other teams are coming from Pensacola, Tallahassee and even north and south Georgia.
The players are extremely excited the tournament is back because they will get the opportunity to play on a college campus.
“It’s really big for them because a lot of them are looking to live out their dreams after high school even though there are a lot of them that won’t but this is an opportunity for them to play on the big stage and be seen and just enjoy the game and get all the people in Jackson County cause Jackson County is a basketball community,” Marianna High School assistant principal Travis Blanton said.
The invitational also gives the local teams a chance to see some other opponents that they wouldn’t normally play against in a regular season.
“There’s so many rivalries right here in this local area and every time we have these rivalries its a big game for the kids and there’s a lot of pressure so this is a chance to play someone without the pressure of the bragging rights but playing actually over the holidays you get a chance to get better and improve and try to figure things out as a coach and as a player,” Cottondale head coach Chris Obert said.
It’s also a great opportunity for the community to support these schools as the money raised from it will be split among all five local teams.
“So we’re hoping people come out and support this tournament because we’re giving it right back to the youth of this county,” Johnson said.
The tournament will take place on Dec. 28-30 at Chipola College with five games set for each day.