GREENSBORO — One year after Northern Guilford withdrew from the HAECOisHiring.com Invitational, another longtime participant, Northwest Guilford, has decided not to compete in Greensboro’s premier holiday basketball tournament.
The Vikings will be replaced by a team from Forsyth County, Bishop McGuinness, when this year’s high school tournament is played Dec. 20-22. That’s another change for the event that began as the Little 4 Invitational in 1976. The annual tournament, organized by the Greensboro Sports Council, will move from the week after Christmas to the week before Christmas.
“Our new earlier dates allow us to play the HAECOisHiring.com Invitational right after winter break begins, so families can travel for the holidays without having to come home on Christmas Day for the tournament,” Brett Weathersbee, president of the Greensboro Sports Council, said in a news release. “The addition of Bishop McGuinness High School opens the tournament to an energetic fan base that hasn’t experienced the HAECOisHiring.com Invitational, so we’re looking forward to a fantastic tournament in December.”
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Bishop McGuinness, located in Kernersville, is coming off a season in which its girls basketball team won the school’s 10th N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A championship and the boys team reached the second round of the playoffs.
“Bishop McGuinness is very honored to be asked to participate in the HAECOIsHiring.com Invitational,” said Jeff Stoller, the school’s athletics director. “This tournament has an outstanding tradition, and our basketball teams and school community look forward to competing against some of the top Guilford County programs and getting to play at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center.”
Northwest Guilford “asked not to be considered for an invitation to this year’s tournament,” the Sports Council said in the news release Monday.
Jason Allred, Northwest’s AD, said the Vikings’ decision came down to not wanting to potentially play Metro 4-A Conference teams in the nonconference portion of their schedule. Grimsley, Page, Ragsdale and Southeast Guilford are all Metro 4-A members who participate in the tournament.
“As a former high school athlete and varsity coach for 18 years, I enjoyed playing different schools,” Allred said. “Non-conference games are great opportunities for our athletes to compete against schools we typically may not play. I support our coaches’ desire not to play, because year in and year out Metro conference teams play each other at the HAECO. This past year our boys team played three teams from our conference and two out of the three games the girls played were against conference opponents.
“Based on the current format and teams participating, we felt there were other opportunities to see different competition on the court. If the HAECO tournament committee takes our suggestions to heart and reaches out to other teams, then we would gladly participate once again.”
Northern Guilford withdrew from the tournament before the 2021 edition, citing similar concerns about playing Metro 4-A rivals, and was replaced by Southeast Guilford, which won its first girls championship. In addition to Bishop McGuinness, Grimsley, Page, Ragsdale and Southeast, the other schools participating in the 2022 event are Dudley, Greensboro Day and Smith.
The Sports Council also announced Monday that it donated $86,000, which averages $10,750 per school, to each of the eight participants in the 2021 tournament. In addition, the Sports Council donated $10,500 in scholarships and charitable contributions from tournament proceeds: four $2,000 Bill Lee Scholarships; a $1,500 donation to the Out of the Garden Project, in honor of tournament chairs Tyler Key and Charlie Hall; and a $1,000 donation to the Corrigan Faircloth Chapter of the National Football Foundation to sponsor a scholarship.
Since 2008, the event has raised $1,272,000 for participating schools, including this year’s contributions.
“We were ecstatic to return to some sense of normalcy in hosting the HAECOisHiring.com Invitational last December – it was great to get back to doing what we do to raise funds for our participating schools,” Weathersbee said. “Due to the lasting impacts of the pandemic, our numbers were down in both fundraising and ticket sales, but as time passes and things continue to improve, our fundraising and ticket sales should do the same.”
Even without playing the 2020 tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sports Council donated $22,000 ($2,750 each) to the eight schools that played in the 2019 HAECO Invitational, as well as $10,500 in scholarships and charitable contributions.
Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034 and follow @JoeSireraSports on Twitter.