Nites are TOC champs
Catasauqua head boys' basketball coach and tournament director Eric Snyder thought the recent version of the 26th annual Tournament of Champions final was one of the better ones in recent years.
He just isn't sure how many more may be on the horizon.
"We have three adult leagues left in the area (North Catasauqua, Catasauqua, and Stiles)," said Snyder. "It is not like it used to be for a number of reasons. We all would like to see more teams and players in the area."
In the latest final, Nites, a team based of former standouts from across the Lehigh Valley, defeated the Mark Smith for Allentown School Board team, a team comprised of former Allen High School stars, 63-53 at the Catasauqua Playground July 26.
Former Allen High player and Nites player Isaiah Palmer took home the tournament MVP as the Nites represented the Catty League in the tournament and the Mark Smith squad represented the North Catty League.
"It was a very entertaining final," said Snyder. "There is a lot of familiarity around with the teams. We had the three remaining adult leagues as well as other teams from around the area.
"Overall, it was a good tournament with plenty of good games.
Snyder recalled the heydays of the tournament when as many as 20 or more teams comprised the field and leagues were flourishing throughout the Lehigh Valley and beyond from Reading to Easton.
"Reading had some leagues, Easton had their leagues, and Bethlehem had their leagues," said Snyder. "West Reading has a league for over 30 years. We also had a number of leagues up north in Schuylkill County. We had a number of great players from all over who used to play in this tournament.
"We still have some great players here, but they are concentrated because of the three leagues. Some guys are playing in all three leagues. And we still have a number of older guys who are still playing."
Generating team revenues and the lack of younger players appear to be two main issues that need immediate attention.
"It is becoming harder for teams to pay the entrance fees that help pay for the officials and overall costs," said Snyder. "In fact, I still have one team that owes me money and I have had that problem the past few years.
"We also need some of the younger players to come out. They seem to have some organizational issues. We've seen some younger players come out recently, but we need more."
Snyder can personally attest to the matter as his son James and other recent Roughie graduates played for Curmaci Dental-Friel and advanced to the quarterfinals. They lost in that round to Mark Smith and it was one of the better games in the tournament.
Other former Roughie players on the team were Anthony Brinkley, Brandon Purrone. Alex Parker, and Jalen Nicholas among others.
"Those guys agreed to play Mark Smith because the team that was supposed to play them couldn't make it," explained Snyder. "It was like Villanova playing Georgetown. They hung tough with them until the very end. They ran out of gas at the end, but it really was a good game.
"When you see a game like that, you realize what could happen if we had more young guys come out for teams."
On a positive note, Snyder has already received some inquiries from teams in Schuylkill County, Summit Hill and Upper Perkiomen. He is optimistic that the leagues and the tournament can return for its 27th season next summer.
If not, Snyder has hinted about a possible high school tournament – each team entry would be guaranteed four games – could take its place next year.
Still, he hopes a great tradition doesn't fade away.
"I have looked into a high school tournament that wouldn't conflict with the other ones in the area," said Snyder. "I realize guys have many other commitments and vacations also pop up during the summer. It has become more difficult to play in these leagues
"But I believe we can keep this going for a few more years."