Over the years, the Bannon Park Classic has proven to bring together, and showcase, some of the best accumulation of talent across not only the Tri-State Area, but additional cities across Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
From last Thursday through Sunday, much of that talent was on display again during the BPC, which took place on its normal location on 14th Street and Robinson Avenue from Thursday through Saturday and — due to inclement weather — the Old Portsmouth High School Gymnasium on Sunday evening in Portsmouth.
For Bannon Park Classic Commissioner Jerald Gordon, the tournament, from the talent present on the court to the overall atmosphere, was a rousing success.
“It was a wonderful experience for everybody involved,” Gordon said. “I was kind of nervous about the perception that the parents would have because it’s a different atmosphere than your typical tournament that some of these kids are in. Usually, these kids are playing in indoor facilities, and that worried me because this is a different environment than most of us are used to, but overall, I had lots of parents, in particular, inbox me and say, ‘Man, anytime you do something like that again, make sure you always invite us back. We’ll be down for it every time.’ That’s a better compliment than anything I could’ve dreamed of.”
All in all, the tournament proved to be a pretty successful showing for Scioto County, as three units that were formulated in the county (Minford, Elementary Division; Scioto County Select, High School Division; and Self Made; Adult Division) all took home crowns. And in the case of the elementary and high school divisions, Minford and Scioto County Select were able to take home hardware while battling off extremely hot heat conditions that reached the mid-90s.
“It was something to behold,” Gordon said. “I really wasn’t sure how the weather was going to cooperate with us. These young men really endured a trying environment. The heat was really, really something to endure, but they really went out there, gave it all they had, and put a good effort into the whole thing. It was just good, fun basketball all the way around.”
The best moment of the tournament, however, arguably occurred during the Middle School Division Championship on Friday evening.
With Ironton’s middle school divisional unit holding a comfortable 15-point lead over the Portsmouth Shockers in the game’s final moments, the Fighting Tigers inserted Bishop Straight, a young man with special needs, into the contest. Straight proceeded to drive the lane, and after barely missing his first pair of attempts, knocked down his third and final shot attempt to bring the championship game to its conclusion as Ironton hit the 40-point margin needed to bring the game to a close.
And the best part? Straight was named as the Middle School Division Tournament Most Valuable Player, as nominated by his team.
“It threw me off because I didn’t know anything about it,” Gordon said. “I was sitting there watching the game, and towards the end, I saw them put Bishop in. It was really something to see. I wish that I could’ve recorded it with my phone, but the memory of it will last forever with me because it was such a strong display of sportsmanship. I can’t really put it into words. The Ironton team really made a conscious effort to make the young man’s day, and that’s something he’ll remember the rest of his life.”
With the 2018 version in the books, Gordon is already looking into ideas to see how he can make the 2019 version an improvement over this past year’s edition of the Bannon Park Classic. One major improvement — the inclusion of a female division — is very high on Gordon’s wishlist.
“We were already looking ahead to next year’s version even before we finished this year’s,” Gordon said. “We’ve looked back on some things that we did, and we agree that there were some things that we did well and some things that we could do better. The girls addition would be a great thing because we have a lot of female youth that are embracing basketball, and we don’t want to leave anybody out. We want to make sure that we create an environment that is inclusive for a large diversity of people. That’s certainly one aspect that we really want to target.”
Next year’s Bannon Park Classic is expected to run from Thursday, July 4th through Sunday, July 7th, according to Gordon.
For more information, visit the Bannon Park Classic Facebook page, which is titled “Bannon Park Classic.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT