There will be high school boys basketball played in Collier County this holiday season after all.
Last week, organizers of the revamped Gulfshore Invitational announced the tournament with big dreams was canceled.
This left many nationally ranked teams holding plane tickets — to come and play in Naples after Christmas — and no one to play.
Area coaches and athletic directors saved the day and some games.
The Collier County basketball community came together to arrange a series of games for three teams scheduled to play in the Gulfshore Invitational. Golden Gate will host games between the out-of-state teams as well as several local schools Dec. 27-31, the original dates of the Gulfshore. Community School will also play a game against an out-of-state foe. And high school officials from Golden Gate, Community School, Lely, Marco Academy and Barron Collier also pitched in to keep the streak of hosting holiday boys hoops alive -- even though this isn't a tournament.
“A number of people have pulled together to try to help out these teams and get them games when they’re here,” said Titans coach Joe Consolino, who created the Gulfshore back in 1996 when he was at Barron Collier and was not lead organizer in the new Invitational format. “Everybody is trying to work things out to make their trips worthwhile.”
It will not be the 22-team event with national-ranking implications as advertised by organizers who changed the name from Shootout to Invitational earlier this month. Last week, the Invitational’s creator Alexander Getta said the major sponsor pulled out and he couldn’t guarantee $10,000 travel fees to top teams.
This left teams scrambling, and in stepped Consolino, the Gulfshore originator, and other area basketball enthusiasts.
The schedule for the games still is being finalized. Teams such as Cincinnati-Moeller, Wilbraham (Mass.) and Monson Academy and Waterloo from Toronto were set to play in the Gulfshore before it fell apart. Halifax Grammar School from Nova Scotia, Canada, also will play at Golden Gate next week.
Golden Gate, Barron Collier and Cape Coral-Baker all will play at least one game against one of the out-of-state teams.
The teams coming to town are thankful for the opportunity. Wilbraham and Monson already had purchased plane tickets. Because it is a boarding school, the players are from all over the country and had arranged to leave from Naples for their respective homes for winter break.
“The people at Golden Gate have been great,” Wilbraham and Monson coach Chris Sparks said. “Everyone has come together and been really supportive. They’re willing to try to make up for what happened. They’ve just been an amazing blessing for our school and our team.”
The impromptu basketball showcase began taking shape shortly after the Gulfshore Invitational was officially canceled last Friday. Coaches from the affected teams began reaching out to schools in Naples to see if other arrangements could be made.
Moeller reached out to Golden Gate athletic director Pete Seitz. Wilbraham and Monson coach Chris Sparks called his friend Lely assistant John Siers. Local coaches and athletic directors started talking, and the wheels began turning.
Seitz allowed the games to be played at Golden Gate. Marco Island Academy athletic director Roger Raymond agreed to let the teams practice at his school. Barron Collier athletic director Mark Rosenbalm got the approval from the FHSAA. Siers secured sponsorship from FoxBoro’s Tavern, a major Lely sponsor, for free meals for the coaches and players.
Community School also is involved. The Seahawks will host Moeller at 2 p.m. Dec. 31.
“We’re reaching out to try to help some of the teams hurt by this,” Seitz said. “Everybody’s disappointed not to have a basketball tournament. This is the next best thing.”
Consolino said the official schedule should be finalized Friday.
Note: This is not a tournament but games between teams scheduled to originally play in the Gulfshore Invitational, which was canceled.
Games at Golden Gate unless noted
Thursday, Dec. 27
Cape Coral-Baker vs. Toronto-Waterloo Academy, 5 p.m.
Golden Gate vs Cincinnati-Moeller, 7 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 28
Golden Gate vs. Halifax (Nova Scotia) Grammer School, 5 p.m.
Wilbraham (Mass.) and Monson Academy vs. Moeller, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 29
Golden Gate vs. Baker, 5 p.m.
Moeller vs. Waterloo, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 30
Wilbraham and Monson vs. Waterloo, 5 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 31
Barron Collier vs. Wilbraham and Monson, 1 p.m.
Moeller at Community School, 2 p.m.