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The Gulfshore Holiday Hoopfest isn’t trying to be the much more famous holiday time boys basketball tournament to the north. The Hoopfest can’t draw the highly-heralded recruits or the nationally-ranked teams that the City of Palms Classic does the week before Christmas each year.

What the tournament can do is bring in a strong statewide field to test local teams the week after Christmas.

That’s exactly what the Hoopfest has done in its 21st year. Played Dec. 27-30 at Golden Gate High School, this year’s Hoopfest mixes eight Southwest Florida schools with six playoff-caliber, out-of-area state schools and two more from outside of Florida.

“We’re trying to put the best tournament we can out there,” Hoopfest director Tim Estes said. “We want to have entertaining basketball for fans who want to come out and watch entertaining teams play.”

Eleven of the 16 teams in the field made the state playoffs last season. Seven of them won 20 games or more, seven won district titles, and three made it to the state final four in their classifications.

The local teams joining host Golden Gate in the Hoopfest are Community School, Immokalee, Lely, Naples and Palmetto Ridge, along with Lee County teams Lehigh and Southwest Florida Christian.

The two out-of-state teams are tournament regulars. Ensworth School from Nashville, Tennessee, is making its eighth trip to Naples for the Hoopfest in 10 years (including when the tournament was known as the Gulfshore Shootout). Loyola Academy from Wilmette, Illinois, is making its third straight appearance in the Hoopfest.

Loyola won the tournament title last year, beating Orlando-Timber Creek, which also returns.

The Hoopfest nearly landed a City of Palms-level talent when it booked Ensworth for this year’s event. Tigers player James Wiseman is the No. 1 ranked junior in the country, but he transferred to the No. 1 ranked team, Memphis East, before the season.

This year Ensworth might be the biggest team in the Hoopfest field. The Tigers, who went to the state semifinals last season, have four players between 6-foot-5 and 6-7. All of them play for the school’s traditionally-strong football team.

“Losing (Wiseman) certainly changes our dynamic,” Ensworth interim head coach Greg Eubanks said. “We still have a lot of guys. Coming to Florida will be kind of an experiment as we incorporate those (football) guys into what we’re doing.”

Eubanks is filling in for Ricky Bowers, Ensworth’s athletic director, head football coach and head basketball coach. Bowers has led the team to Naples each of its previous seven trips, but he has an illness in his family and is taking the season off.

Fans who want to see Ensworth play in the first round of the Hoopfest also will get to see one of the area’s best players. The Tigers take on Southwest Florida Christian and 6-5 combo guard Caleb Catto.

Catto led the Kings to a 28-3 record and a regional championship last season. He is committed to Florida Gulf Coast. This year, Catto is averaging 28.4 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals per game.

Estes said the marquee matchup of the first round might be the primetime matchup of Naples and Deerfield Beach at 7:30 p.m. Both teams won district championships and advanced to the regional semifinals last season, Naples in Class 7A and Deerfield Beach in 9A.

Two other first-round matchups Estes is looking forward to involve local teams. Immokalee won its first five games this season, faces Largo, which went 19-9 last year and made it to the district finals.

Lehigh might have been the top team in Southwest Florida last season, winning a regional championship and advancing to the 7A semifinals. The Lightning face a Hallandale team that went 22-8 last season and lost in overtime in the regional championship game.

Gulfshore Holiday Hoopfest

Dec. 27-30

At Golden Gate High School

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Lely vs. Wilmette (Ill.)-Loyola, 9 a.m.

Cardinal Gibbons vs. Palmetto Ridge, 10:45 a.m.

Community School vs. Parkland-Stoneman Douglas, 12:30 p.m.

Lehigh vs. Hallandale, 2:15 p.m.

Immokalee vs. Largo, 4 p.m.

Golden Gate vs. Orlando-Timber Creek, 5:45 p.m.

Naples vs. Deerfield Beach, 7:30 p.m.

Nashville (Tenn.)-Ensworth vs. Southwest Florida Christian, 9:15 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 28

Consolation (TBA), 9 a.m.

Consolation (TBA), 10:45 a.m.

Consolation (TBA), 12:30 p.m.

Consolation (TBA), 2:15 p.m.

Quarterfinal, 4 p.m.

Quarterfinal, 5:45 p.m.

Quarterfinal, 7:30 p.m.

Quarterfinal, 9:15 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 29

Consolation (TBA), 9 a.m.

Consolation (TBA), 10:45 a.m.

Consolation (TBA), 12:30 p.m.

Consolation (TBA), 2:15 p.m.

Consolation (TBA), 4 p.m.

Consolation (TBA), 5:45 p.m.

Semifinal, 7:30 p.m.

Semifinal, 9:15 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 30

Third-place game, 12:30 p.m.

Championship, 2 p.m.

 

Southwest Florida Fall All-Area Teams

The Naples Daily News will unveil the 2017 Fall All-Area sports teams starting Wednesday in the Daily News sports section and digitally at naplesnews.com. See who made our list of the best-of-the-best high school athletes in our area. The teams will run in this order:

WEDNESDAY: Golf

THURSDAY: Cross Country

FRIDAY: Swimming

SATURDAY: Football

SUNDAY: Volleyball

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