By BILL SCHNIER
Special to the Parade
After last weekend’s thrilling college classic, the local basketball focus now shifts to the best high school tournament in the state of Texas. The Eighth Annual SpawGlass South Padre Island Sweet 16 Invitational will be held on Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3 at two locations – the SPI Convention Centre and Port Isabel High School.
Sixteen teams are participating, including local playoff teams Harlingen South, Roma; and Porter, Hanna and Rivera High Schools from Brownsville. McAllen High, Sharyland, Laredo Martin, and El Paso Cathedral are also in the highly competitive field.
The 2011 Sweet 16 Invitational headliner is defending national champion Yates High School from Houston, currently ranked #1 in Texas in 4A. Coach Greg Wise’s Lions set a national scoring record in a 170-35 win vs. Lee High in January, 2010. They dominated their opponents with winning margins of 135, 115, 99, 98, 90 and 88 points. Among a cast of NCAA Division I prospects, 6-7 Damyeon Dotson has already signed with the Oregon Ducks.
St. Thomas High (9-1), also from Houston, won the Texas Private School Championship in 2008 and again last year, and is currently ranked #4 among private schools. Their leader is 6-4 point guard Christian Sanders, who has committed to play for the Stanford Cardinal. Coach Danny Evans’ Eagles are annually among the state’s top private school teams, and have won 10 state titles in their illustrious history. St. Thomas defeated Houston HCYA 54-50 earlier this season. HCYA, led by fan favorite “Chicken” Knowles, a future University of Houston Cougar, is also in the 2011 field.
The Woodlands (4-0), a 5A regional finalist last year and currently ranked #16 in the state, will be making their first appearance on the Island. Defending champion Converse Judson, the 2010 Sweet 16 champion, will be returning to defend its’ title under legendary coach Mike Wacker. Westwood High from Austin will be making its inaugural appearance in the Sweet 16.
Games start Friday and Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at continue through 9 p.m., at both PI High School and the SPI Convention Centre. The third place game and 2011 championship game are scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Convention Centre, with tip offs at 6 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.
All police, fire, EMS and Coast Guard members in uniform will be admitted free of charge, with a portion of all proceeds going to the South Padre Island Fireman’s Fund.
For more information, call the SPI Convention Centre at (888) 774-8587.