By Jonathan Deal
Packed gymnasiums. Buzzer-beaters. Upsets.
Those are a few things that come to mind when remembering previous Limestone County Tournaments. The latest edition of the tournament that crowns Limestone County’s best high basketball team tipped off Saturday at Elkmont High School.
While Saturday was the official start to the tournament, the varsity games will not begin until Monday when Ardmore and Clements tip off at 5 p.m.
This is West Limestone’s year to host the tournament, but as they have done in the past, the games will be played at Elkmont High School because its gymnasium is much larger.
Since the tournament began rotating host sites, Elkmont has hosted the tournament as much as any school in the county. The Red Devils have had the home-court advantage in the past when the rotation falls on Ardmore, West Limestone or Elkmont.
But Elkmont doesn’t hold the record for hosting the most Limestone County Tournaments. That designation goes to Athens, which hosted the tournament at various sites off and on for nearly forty years.
The first Limestone County Tournament was held at Athens High School’s old gymnasium in the 1940s. The tournament remained at the site, which currently serves as the Athens Middle School gymnasium, until a new gym was built at the current AHS site.
Athens hosted the tournament until it parted ways with the county tournament in the 1980s. Since then, the tournament has rotated between county schools.
“I guess people thought it would be best to have it a central location, but Athens won it quite a few times and probably wore out their welcome,” said Limestone County resident Wilson Blair. “They probably shouldn’t have been in it as a city school to begin with.”
Blair has been attending the Limestone County Tournament for “quite a while”, but one memory nearly 50 years ago stands out from the rest — a championship game in the early 1960s.
“Going over there, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky,” recalls Blair. “Tanner and West Limestone ended up in triple overtime. It wasn’t over until almost midnight. We walked outside and there was almost two inches of snow on the ground. That was a shocker. In the county tournament, expect everything.”
The tournament currently rotates between Clements, East Limestone, Elkmont and Tanner — the four newest facilities in the county. East Limestone hosted the tournament for the first time in 2012. Ardmore will be added to the rotation upon completion of its new gymnasium currently under construction.
Proceeds from the tournament are divided among the schools depending how many games their respective teams play in the tournament.
Tanner swept the tournament last season on its home floor. The girls knocked off five-time defending champion Clements 47-44 while Tanner’s boys team beat East Limestone 59-54.
Tanner’s boys team are two-time defending state champions. Prior to that, East Limestone won consecutive county championships in 2010 and ’11. Tanner dethroned Clements girls team last year, which had won a record five consecutive county championships prior to that.