When he arrived at Wootton six years ago, head basketball coach Chris Bohlen wanted to bring the community together during the holiday season while giving his players the chance to compete during the week-long winter break.
The result--now in its fifth year--has become a winter tradition at the Rockville school as Wootton gets ready to host three other area high school teams in its annual Holiday Tournament over two days from Dec. 28-Dec. 29.
"When I got to Wootton, I wanted to provide the kids with the opportunity to play as much good basketball as I could," Bohlen said of his decision to start the tournament in 2007 in his second season as Patriots coach. "I wanted to make basketball something the entire family and the whole community can enjoy together this time of year. And it's been great for the community and for the kids."
This year's tournament features the same four teams as it did in 2010: host Wootton, Watkins Mill--which won the tournament last year in its first appearance--as well as local private school Avalon and Rockville High School, which has been part of the tournament since its inception in 2007. In addition to the varsity division, the same four schools also compete on the junior varsity level and all tournament proceeds go to Wootton's athletic department--specifically the basketball programs, Bohlen said.
Bohlen said he and Rockville coach GJ Kissal are friends and when Kissal was named head coach at Rockville in 2007, Bohlen knew he wanted to host an annual tournament that included the Rams because the two schools hadn't played each other very often during Bohlen's tenure at the school.
The Rams have been part of the tournament for all five years. According to Bohlen, prior to this season, the annual tournament is the only time he has faced Kissal since coming to Wootton.
However, the two teams have already played each other this season. Wootton (4-2) won the Dec. 12 meeting over Rockville (2-4), 52-29. Patriots leading scorer Willis Ibeh, who averages close to 15 points-per-game this season, led the way that night with 19 points. Because the two teams played each other already this season, Wootton will play Watkins Mill in the opening round.
Watkins Mill enters the tournament 1-5, coming off its first victory of the season last week against Damascus. But Bohlen isn't letting his team look past his first-year opponent considering the Wolverines defeated them in the first round last season en route to the tournament title. Plus, Tyvon Grant is the leading scorer playing in the tournament. Grant averages 15.5 points per game, which place him among the top scorers in the county.
The winner of Wednesday's Watkins Mill-Wootton game will play the winner of today's Rockville-Avalon game in the championship on Thursday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. The consolation game between the two opening game's losing teams will face off Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. The junior varsity games will take place at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. both days with the same format as the varsity division.
Avalon--a private high school located in Gaithersburg--is led by David Collins, who averages 15.3 points per game on the season. Rockville is led by Obed Rivera-Reyes, who enters the tournament with just over 12 points per game. In addition to Ibeh, Wootton's Nicolas Texier has also been a go-to scorer for the Patriots, averaging nearly 10 points per game.
Wooton enters the tournament having won four of its last five games, including a on Dec. 21.