December is usually a time to relax and enjoy the holidays, but for a few of the area’s basketball teams, it is a time to challenge itself as it begins action in the 16th annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Invitational.
Hosted by Columbus High School, the event begins this afternoon and features teams from the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee competing in 17 games over two days.
The Starkville Academy girls, the Starkville High boys and Starkville HIgh girls will play in the tournament named for the longtime supporter of Columbus High basketball.
Many of the area teams use these winter tournaments to get some extra practices and games in before heading into the heart of divisional play, which is exactly the plan for the Lady Yellowjackets.
“We like to close out the first half of the season at the Joe Horne tournament,” SHS girls coach Kristie Williams said. “We are still working on things to get better and it’s a great measuring tool to see where you are.”
Taking on Southaven, the Lady Jackets begin tournament action today at 3:40 p.m. in gym two.
Williams knows Southaven is a “very talented team” and they will be a “tough team to go against," but after watching her team compete, the coach feels her girls are ready for the competition.
The Starkville boys also begin action this afternoon as they face Noxubee County in gym two at 5 p.m. The Jackets play their second game on Saturday against Holt, Ala., at 2:20 p.m. in gym two.
“It is a good tournament with a lot of tradition,” Starkville boys coach Greg Carter said. “Historically, there have been a lot of fans that come over and support our teams.
“Noxubee is a big rivalry for us. The players know each other on and off the court and coach (T.J.) Billups and I go way back, so this is a big game for us.”
Beginning at 3 p.m. today, the schedule for the Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Invitational consists of seven games Friday and an additional 10 games on Saturday. Cost of admission will be $7 for Friday’s action and $8 on Saturday.