Wildcat lead man Jason Robinson and Lady Cat coach Sunee Springer both spent their prep days at Haralson County, playing in the annual Christmas Invitational, which will mark its 33rd year with Friday’s opening tip, as well as coaching at their alma mater before making their way to Villa Rica.
And this week always makes for a fun chance to go back home and hoop it up.
“I always get excited because it’s good to go back home,” Springer said. “I think my girls usually do pretty good in that tournament, and I’m looking forward to maybe making it to that final playoff game.”
Robinson admitted that it had actually slipped his mind that both he and Springer began as a Rebel and Rebelette.
“We’re both from Haralson, we’ve both played in it — I didn’t even think about that,” Robinson laughed. “It’s kind of different. Then again, my former coach (Randy Patterson) is the AD over there, and he and I are good friends. It’s been one of the longest-running tournaments around.”
Robinson said the ongoing joke with his team is that Haralson County is its home away from home.
“Other than Haralson County, since I’ve been the head coach in the last five years, we’ve played more games there than any other team besides Haralson County,” Robinson said. “With the Christmas tournament, the regular-season games that we’ve played over there and the region tournaments and all, our kids like going over there. They like the atmosphere. It’s a nice facility.”
As for the current Rebel coach, Whitt Brown think this year’s field should make for some competitive action with Heard County, Bowdon, Bremen, Alexander, Spring Garden and Heflin, Ala., rounding out the field along with Haralson County and Villa Rica.
“Right now it’s looking pretty good,” Brown said.
Brown said his team always looks forward to this week, using it as a nice tune-up for the upcoming region season.
“It’s just something to prepare you for after Christmas, and then it’s just something fun to take part in a tournament,” Brown said.
Brown said it’d be nice for his Rebels to make a good showing at this year’s Invitational, something they’ve missed out on the past couple times.
“For us, personally, we haven’t placed in the tournament in about three years. We got third three years ago,” Brown said. “And it’s been over 10 years since the boys have won our Christmas tournament. So our goal is to win the thing, but also to play better. We haven’t played well in a while.”
Action begins Friday at 4 p.m. with the Villa Rica girls taking on Heard County, followed by the Wildcats facing the Braves. The Bowdon girls will play Alexander at 7 p.m., while the Bremen boys will take on the Cougars in the nightcap.
The Haralson County girls play Saturday night at 7, while the Rebels have their first game that night at 8:30 against Spring Garden.
Some of the more intriguing early games will pit Robinson’s Wildcats against undefeated Heard County on Friday, while the Bowdon boys will get a rematch with Heflin on Saturday from its five-overtime game during the Cleburne County Tournament this past weekend.
As for Robinson, whose Wildcats will be one of the tournament favorites as the defending champion, he’s just hopeful of winning some more games in front of his “other” home crowd.
“It’s always fun to go back home, but it makes it a lot sweeter if you’re fortunate enough to win some games over there,” Robinson said.