Every December since 1954, high school basketball squads have converged in Southwest Missouri to face off in the Neosho Holiday Classic. A staple of community activity between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the basketball tournament began with area schools coming together for friendly competition. Despite a long history of support by the community, participation began to waiver in the 1990s. Recognizing that successful high school basketball tournaments are driven by both business and community support, Branco Enterprises became the official tournament underwriter in 1998. Through the hard work of the Neosho High School, area businesses, and local volunteers, the tournament has grown to become one of the premier tournaments in the region.
One of the unique components to the Holiday Classic is its deep-seated history and tradition with the added flair of highly competitive teams. In addition to local and regional teams, this year’s edition includes teams from several states including Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Tennessee. Though all games are well attended, capacity crowds are expected for the Friday evening Slam Dunk and Three Point Shoot-Out contests. As always, the high level of talent provides excellent opportunities to view great basketball.
While the community reaps significant benefits from the tournament’s success, the motivation behind Branco’s involvement is the players. “Branco’s desire is to provide local, regional, and national high school basketball teams a fun, exciting tournament,” says Justin Branham, President of Branco. “There are many great benefits for the players. Playing against nationally ranked teams gives local players a level of exposure that they normally would not receive.” Numerous college scouts and media outlets attend the tournament, which can open the door to opportunities for players at the next level.
At the same time, players are beneficiaries of unrivaled hospitality. Branco provides lodging and travel as necessary for the out of area teams. In addition, each player and coach receives a tournament t-shirt and lanyard. Hospitality rooms are available at the tournament for coaches, players, officials, and administrators. “Hot meals and drinks are provided all day long, and the players and coaches are always amazed at the quality of the food and the service that comes with it,” says Branham. Several area churches have become an integral part to the tournament in recent years by preparing and serving the evening meals. These churches include: Abundant Life, Calvary Baptist, First Baptist, Northside Baptist, Racine Christian, Ritchey Baptist.
As the underwriter for the event, Branco is committed to the long-term success of the tournament. However, Branco is not alone. The staff, coaches, and administrators from the Neosho School District put in long hours to ensure that the tournament runs smoothly. And, dozens of workers and volunteers from the community are needed every year. In addition, many local businesses provide support in the form of event sponsorships. Many business leaders in the Neosho and surrounding communities participated in the tournament at one time and have fond memories. “While local citizens recognize the impact that the tournament has had on the community, the greatest satisfaction is seeing the players compete in the game they love and watching the fans as they take the opportunity to break away from the stresses of life and enjoy competitive high school basketball.”