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Hundreds descend on Athens for basketball invitational

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Hornets host basketball tournament Dec. 5-7

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ATHENS–It may be a bit too early to call it a tradition, but the Second Annual Athens Invitational Basketball Tournament is again bringing hundreds to the city. From Dec. 5-7, there will be more guests in local hotels and more patrons at local stores, gas stations and restaurants, thanks to hot hoop action at Athens High School.
A total of 30 varsity girls’ and boys’ teams are competing in 64 games spread across three gyms on the AHS campus. Athens boys will play in game 1 of their bracket at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the large competition gym. The Lady Hornets will first take the court in game four of their bracket at 5 p.m. Thursday in the competition gym. Saturday in the competition gym, the girls’ championship game will be played at 5 p.m. and the boys’ championship game at 6:30 p.m.
Last year’s tournament brought 28 teams to town and was successful enough to prompt the city of Athens this year to contribute $2,500 in support of the three-day event. The invitational, which is sponsored by Athens Screen Printing, brings not only players, coaches and officials to town, but family members as well.
“We definitely saw impact with the number of visitors,” said Athens Chamber of Commerce President Marisa Gunstanson following last year’s tournament. “It not only brought in more people, but hopefully they go back and tell their friends they need to visit us as well.”
Following the 2018 invitational, local McDonald’s Owner Jeaneane Lilly reported the number of customers at the Athens store increased an average of 21 percent over the three days of the tournament as compared to the previous year. Local Super 8 Motel Owner Chet Patel said this year he knows of at least eight rooms at his establishment booked for two nights each.
“Our goal from the beginning has been for this invitational to become the premier tournament in East Texas,” said Head Boys Basketball Coach and event organizer Cliff Thompson. “I believe we’re well on our way to achieving that.”
To see the tournament brackets, visit www.athensisd.net, click on “Athletics” and then “Athens Hornets Tournament Bracket.”