KENOSHA — A tournament that started 10 years ago with a vision of how to put the spotlight on local high school basketball during the holiday has turned into way more than that.
And in some circles, the Doctors of Physical Therapy Tournament may just be the best of the best.
It just keeps growing and growing.
This year’s event, set for Tuesday through Friday at Carthage and UW-Parkside, features 31 varsity boys and girls basketball games – an amazing amount of hoops action for any junkie looking to scratch that itch during the holiday.
Co-director John Lynn, who developed the idea and has run each event with the help of co-director Jon Palmen, couldn’t be happier with how the tournament has grown.
“The kids are leaving it all on the floor,” Lynn said. “I think, personally, that it’s created the best classic in the state – in my mind – over the holidays. Who else has 31 ballgames in two locations? It’s kind of cool.”
Lynn, a former Tremper standout and longtime Kenoshan, now lives in Florida but returned to the area last weekend to oversee the JV version of the tournament with Palmen. He said the first year of the tournament started with just five teams at Carthage.
“When I came up with the idea 10 years ago, I wanted to bring some of the excitement back over Christmas break so teams don’t have to travel (far),” Lynn said. “I felt like these kids deserve to play close to home, (and) have a good experience in a nice facility.”
The partnership between Lynn and Palmen continues to work well – especially with an event like this one and all the moving parts, Lynn said.
Setting up game schedules, finding three-person officiating crews for 31 games, getting the venues ready, programs, and a live auction are just a few of the pieces in play, and that all takes plenty of coordination.
“I knew I needed somebody (for the promotions), so I reached out to Jon,” Lynn said. “He’s organized in that. Every year, we have something new come up. It’s a good flow we have going, I would say. We just bounce things off each other. We keep each other organized.”
Big change this year
Speaking of something new, this year’s event will be the first time games will be played at UW-Parkside, as that venue will feature 11 girls’ contests during the four-day run.
The topnotch facility at Parkside was the perfect choice to give the girls their own place to showcase their skills and at a better time of day to allow for more fans to watch, Lynn said.
“That was a tough one for me because I felt some of the coaches would miss playing (at Carthage),” Lynn said. “I tossed that around for two months to figure it out. (Being at Parkside) just gives it a different look, a face life, per se. (The tournament) is growing, so we have to make decisions on why we’re growing and doing something different.”
The relationship with Carthage staff for the event has been great, and the same certainly can be said with how welcoming Parkside and Athletic Director Andrew Gavin has been with bringing the games over there as well, Lynn said.
“When I approached him, he was open arms,” Lynn said. “Just the whole renovation of the facility (has been great). It is a huge stepping stone for something (more) down the road for us.”
As if the continuous action at both facilities isn’t enough, this year’s event again will honor two longtime people with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
And both men – Mark Olsen and Tom Reigel – certainly are well-known in local athletic circles.
Olsen is the former men’s golf coach at Parkside and longtime coach at Westosha Central, while Reigel is a former assistant coach at Parkside for his son, Luke, and before that, coached for 30 years in the high school ranks. Reigel has two state titles on his resume, both at Wilmot in 1984 and 1991.
Because of their connections to Central and Wilmot, respectively, Olsen will receive his award on Dec. 27 at halftime of the Central-Indian Trail game, while Reigel will be honored on Dec. 30 during the Wilmot-Tremper contest. Both ceremonies will be held at Carthage.
When asked to describe the contributions both men have given both high school and collegiate athletics, Lynn came up with several words.
“Educators, mentors, you could say, legends, but I like to use the word, ‘legacy,’ because it lasts forever,” he said. “That’s what those guys created. I think about (the award) for a whole year, who I want, and those are the two who popped into my mind.”
Taking a step back during the tournament
When Lynn and Palmen aren’t racing around taking care of a number of details and situations that pop up, they do give themselves a chance to get a wide view of the arena and the atmosphere.
There have been many classic contests during this tournament the past year, but the crowd may not have reached as high a fever pitch as it did a season ago when the Central and Racine Case boys teams squared off in the marquee game of the night.
That contest, between two eventual WIAA State Tournament qualifiers (Case in Division 1 and Central in Division 2), drew one of the largest and loudest crowds seen inside the Tarble Arena.
“The place was jammed all the way to the top, and the walkway was jammed,” Lynn said. “I turned and looked at Jon and said, ‘This is what I thought of 10 years ago.’ Obviously, you don’t get games like that all the time. But when you have four games a night, people stick around to see who’s playing next.
“It’s about family coming to town, it’s about supporting the community, the community supporting athletics, and families being able to support their student-athletes. That was my vision. I’m just glad it’s coming to fruition. It’s everybody included (in the planning). It’s a great thing. I just want to keep it that way.”
This year’s field, in both boys and girls, features several teams currently among the top 10 in the latest WisSports.net rankings. On the boys’ side are Milwaukee Hamilton (eighth, D1), Burlington (sixth, D2), Greenfield (ninth, D2), St. Joseph (10th, D4), and Racine St. Catherine’s (seventh, D3).
On the girls’ side, Union Grove currently is ranked fourth in Division 2, while Racine Prairie is ranked sixth in Division 4.
For a complete game schedule and more information about this year’s event, visit the Go Sports America website.
The online auction is live now. Items range from local restaurant gift certificates to signed Green Bay Packers footballs, and golf packages to safari admissions. Visit the auction online to place your bids and see all 44 items up for auction.
The Racine County Eye, which includes the Kenosha Lens, is your source for local news that serves our diverse communities. Subscribe today to stay up-to-date with local sports, business, and more.
Follow us on Facebook: Racine County Eye or Kenosha Lens, and Twitter to make sure you get the latest news.
Racine County Eye and Kenosha Lens – Journalism that serves.