Top-notch holiday basketball action will once again be featured at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse next December.
The Altoona Area School District announced Friday that the Fieldhouse - which played host to nationally-renowned boys and girls teams in the old Altoona Rotary Holiday Basketball Tournament in the 1980s and 1990s - will roll out the welcome mat for high-profile boys and girls basketball tournaments in the 2010 holiday season.
The Altoona High School boys basketball team will tip off their 2010-11 season on the weekend of Dec. 17-18 by playing host to a four-team tournament that also includes Philadelphia area powers Norristown and Abington, as well as The Gillman School of Baltimore, Md.
Less than two weeks later, after Christmas, the Altoona Lady Lions will host the Wendy's High School Girls Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28-29. Visiting teams will include Gateway and Franklin Regional from the WPIAL, along with Abington.
Altoona High School boys coach Paul Hasson is delighted with the opportunity to have another tournament at the Fieldhouse of which the school and community can be proud.
"We played in three tournaments last year, and they were all away, which got us thinking that we needed to have a tournament come back to Altoona,'' Hasson said. "I talked to [Altoona High School athletic director] Phil Riccio, and he did a great job getting some really quality teams to come here. We have a super facility, and we want to make the best of the holiday season by hosting the tournament there.''
Last year's Altoona boys team finished 5-17 in Hasson's first season as the Mountain Lions' coach, but Altoona returns a half-dozen lettermen, including leading scorers DeRon Lee and Robert Johnson, who will both be seniors next year.
"We have six or seven kids back who lettered and got a lot of playing experience last year,'' said Hasson, who had previous coaching tenures at Tyrone and Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic. "Altoona has had some great holiday tournaments in the past, and hopefully, [next year's tournament] will be the beginning of a tradition once again.''
Next season will mark Jill Bartley-Helsel's first as the Altoona girls' varsity basketball head coach. Helsel, was a former assistant coach and standout player with the Lady Lions who played in the Rotary Tournament in the mid-1990s.
"We are very excited about it,'' Helsel said of the opportunity for Altoona to once again play the holiday host role. "We've been traveling to everybody else's holiday tournaments, and it's going to be exciting for our players to host a tournament of their own.''