Niagara Gazette — The holidays are a time for sharing, and local high school teams have taken that to heart.
With league play on hiatus through winter break, it’s become tradition for secondary schools to take part in an array of tournaments.
This year, Starpoint is opening its doors to host an annual boys basketball tournament while two teams from Niagara Falls have organized competitions at off-site venues. Numerous other teams will take part in tourneys hosted by other schools.
The Spartans kick things off tonight with the Pendleton Lions Club tournament. Last year’s champion, Medina, tips things off against Orchard Park at 5 p.m., with the Spartans taking on South Park afterward, at approximately 6:30 p.m. The tournament wraps up Saturday, with a consolation game at 3:30 p.m. and the championship following at 5 p.m.
“It’s a good chance to play at home during Christmas and take on some teams from outside our league,” said Starpoint coach Ben Scaffidi. “We’re very appreciative of the (Lions Club) for that.”
Admission to the tournament has been $3 in past years, and any proceeds collected by the Lions Club will be donated to a charity of its members’ choosing.
The Niagara Falls federation hockey team starts play tonight in the inaugural Cataract Classic, the Wolverines’ ice version of the long-running showcase put on by the school’s basketball program.
Like the basketball programs’ event, the Classic is put on by the Niagara Falls Education Foundation. The Foundation is funding the event and all proceeds will go into its scholarship fund, according to NF hockey coach Stan Wojton.
“My assistants and I started talking about doing something, and we approached (the Foundation),” Wojton said. “We thought it was a stepping stone for our program, and they supported us.”
Six teams are taking part, each playing tonight and again Saturday morning at Hyde Park. Victor, from near Rochester, will take on Sweet Home at 8 p.m. tonight on rink no. 1, followed by Niagara Falls against Grand Island at 9:30 p.m. Lewiston-Porter and Hilton, another Rochester-area school, will play on rink no. 2 at 9:15 p.m.
Sweet Home and Lew-Port will play at 9 a.m. Saturday, followed by Niagara Falls and Victor at 11 a.m. and Grand Island and Hilton at 1 p.m. All of Saturday’s games will be played on rink no. 1.
Admission is $5 per game.
“Because it’s over holiday break, we’ll reach two groups,” Wojton said. “With the Friday night crowd, we hope to really hit the student body at Niagara Falls and give the students something to come out and support. Saturday morning, we’re expecting a little more of a family environment, where hopefully a few little kids will come out and see what it means to play Niagara Falls hockey.”
Monday morning, the majority of Western New York’s boys and girls bowling teams will take part in the annual Festival of Lights Tournament at Thruway Lanes, hosted by Niagara Falls.
The tourney was started in 1980 by Lou Marcantonio, who coached at the old Niagara Falls High School. From 1980-2004, it was played at Beverly Lanes in Niagara Falls, but was moved to Thruway Lanes in Cheektowaga after Beverly closed in 2004.
Niagara Falls bowling coach Ed Ventry said he expects 56-60 teams to compete for the boys and girls championships. He called it “the biggest high school tournament outside of sectionals,” because it’s formatted the same as the sectional championships and schools like to participate to prepare their bowlers for the postseason.
Teams bowl three games at 9:30 a.m., followed by a one-hour lunch break. In the afternoon, lanes are reassigned based on score, and teams bowl three more games as they fight for first place.
“It makes for a very competitive afternoon,” Ventry said. “Once you’re in the second group, it’s a whole different atmosphere.”
Follow Niagara Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.