Snowball Classic back for 56th year

Abbotsford Secondary's annual basketball tournament returns starting Jan. 13

Abbotsford's Chase Claypool defends during last year's Snowball Classic basketball tournament. This year's event runs from Jan. 13 to 16.

Abbotsford's Chase Claypool defends during last year's Snowball Classic basketball tournament. This year's event runs from Jan. 13 to 16.

For the 56th time, some of the best young basketball talent in North America is coming to Abbotsford Secondary.

The annual Snowball Classic returns to the school starting on Jan. 13 and running until Jan. 16.

This year’s highlighted team is the five-time New York state champion Mount Vernon Knights. The Knights are ranked third in the state this season, led by point guard Marco Morency, who is ranked as one of the top players in the state.

Former NBA talent to come out of the school includes: Ben Gordon, Gus Williams, Ray Williams, Earl Tatum, Rodney McCray, Scooter McCray, Lowes More and Kevin Jones.

Knights coach Bob Cimmino was named to the New York state coaches hall of fame in 2011, and has been coaching the Knights for nearly 30 years.

NCAA recruits competing at the tournament include Knights players Morency, Gregory Calixte and Jason Douglas, along with Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool.

British Columbia provincial players at the tournament include: Lambert Pajayon, Jass Singh, Matt Lafontaine, Howard Wang, Brett Christensen, and Grant Shephard.

The host Abbotsford Panthers, Bateman Timberwolves, Mouat Hawks, Yale Lions, and MEI Eagles are the local teams in the tournament.

Other teams include: Vancouver’s Kitsilano Blue Demons, Chilliwack’s GW Graham Grizzlies, Vancouver’s St. George’s School Saints, the Kelowna Owls, Vancouver’s Winston Churchill Bulldogs, and Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators.

The tournament features five of the top ten 4A basketball teams in the province in the Owls (#1), the Bulldogs (#2), the Gators (#3), the Blue Demons (#4), and the Lions (#6).

Other top teams in their respective conferences are the Eagles (#9 in AAA) and the Grizzlies (#2 in AA).

Teams at the Snowball Classic are battling for the Peter Buhler Memorial Trophy, which was donated by the Abbotsford Secondary students’ council in his honour.

Buhler was an all-around athlete and participated in most of the sports offered at the school. He passed away in October 1962 from leukemia.

The Snowball Classic is recognized as the longest running tournament in the province. Vancouver College won the first ever tournament, with MEI being the first Abbotsford school to win back the title in 1963.

The host Panthers earned their first Snowball title in 1964. The Panthers last won a Snowball title in 1999.

The last Abbotsford team to claim the title was the Yale Lions in 2010.

The Fairfax Lions from Los Angeles won the 2015 tournament, defeating the Burnaby South Rebels 81-60 in the final.

It all gets going when the Panthers host the Timberwolves in the opening game on Jan. 13. Tip-off is set for 12:45 p.m. at the Abby Secondary gym. The final is set for Jan. 16 at 8 p.m.

A tournament pass for all four days costs $20, with the tickets costing $5 on Wednesday and $6 on Thursday. Admission for Friday and Saturday is $8. Student pricing is $2 on Wednesday and Thursday, and $3 on Friday and Saturday.

For more information on the event, visit snowballbasketball.com.