It"s a time of coming together, meeting up with old friends and familiar faces.
It"s a time when — for three days — nothing else in the world seems to matter.
Well, one thing matters — seeing your team at the Eldorado Holiday Tournament.
This year marks the 52nd anniversary of what has become one of the best tournaments in southern Illinois. At times, it can also be one of the hottest tickets to see a game in arguably the best gymnasium, none other than Duff-Kingston.
As for the competition, as much as things seem to change, they also stay the same.
The 16-team tournament provides fans with 26 action-packed games, but this season, three new faces will grace the crowd at Eldorado High School.
Herrin, which took a two-year hiatus from the tournament, returns as this year"s No. 1 seed. The Tigers come in sporting a record of 5-2 after a thrilling victory over Marion Tuesday night. In the EHT, Herrin is 9-6 and their best finish was a second place showing after falling to Harrisburg in the 2011 championship game.
Vienna and Edwards County are the two other schools new to the tournament this season. The three combine to replace Galatia, Meridian and Webster County, Ky. Galatia has entered the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament, while Meridian will play in the Carbondale Holiday Tournament.
Fairfield is the No. 2 seed and to date, Mules coach Scott McElravy"s biggest win was knocking off Eldorado 41-40 at home, snapping the Eagles" seven-game winning streak to start the season.
Eldorado, the No. 3 seed, went a perfect 5-0 at the Vienna Classic and added with wins over Gallatin County, West Frankfort, Johnston City and a second meeting Tuesday night against Carrier Mills-Stonefort at home, racing out to a 9-1 start to the season.
Harrisburg is the No. 4 seed, and despite a 3-4 start to the 2016 campaign, always seems to give the local crowd something to cheer for. The Bulldogs have played in seven straight championship games at the EHT, dating back to 2009. Harrisburg became the first team in EHT history to claim four straight titles, turning the trick from 2010-2013. The Bulldogs lost in the championship to Owensboro in 2014 and Massac County last year.
Carmi-White County comes in as the No. 5 seed, sporting a solid record of 7-1, with the lone loss coming to Benton. The Bulldogs could be one of the surprise teams in this year"s field, looking to win their first EHT title since 1998.
Edwards County, the No. 6 seed, is in the tournament for the first time and is coached by Russ Gerlach. The Lions are off to a 7-1 start and are led by 6-foot-6 senior forward and returning leading scorer Nathaniel Schmittler.
Massac County enters the field at No. 7 and longtime Patriot coach and one time EHS coach Joe Hosman recently got his 700th win on the sideline. Hosman is a native of Herrin and is looking to repeat as EHT champions. Hosman and company will have to do so without last year"s EHT MVP J.T. Weber and fellow All-Tournament Team member Noah Farmer as the two declined to lace up the high tops this winter and instead decided to focus on baseball as the two signed scholarship papers with SIU in November.
The final seed goes to Anna-Jonesboro, which will be looking to stave off elimination when the tournament gets started Monday as they face Union County, Ky. The loser drops into the 10 p.m. loser-goes-home bracket and will face the loser of Herrin and Carrier Mills-Stonefort.
A-J head coach Mike Chamness led his team to a consolation championship last year, a fifth place finish in 2011 and three fourth-place finishes from 2008-2010.
Worth The Price Of Admission
One thing the EHT is never short on is talent.
Whether or not you remember names like Mike Duff (Eldorado), Reed Jackson (NCOE), Dana Ford (Egyptian) or Bahari Amaya (Harrisburg), the three-day extravaganza has always provided the biggest hoop junkie with a healthy dose of MVP caliber play.
This year likely will not be any different. You might have to schedule accordingly, but settle in your seat to watch these guys ball out:
· Isaiah Saulsberry, 6-foot-1 junior shooting guard from Harrisburg
· Ethan Partridge, 6-foot-5 senior forward from Eldorado
· Seth Ramsey, 6-foot senior shooting guard from Gallatin County
· DJ Spell, 6-foot-4 guard/forward combo from Herrin
· Macklin Snyder, 5-foot-10 senior guard from Fairfield
· Isaiah Thompson, 6-foot-6 senior forward from Massac County
· Jake Parr, 6-foot-2 junior guard from Anna-Jonesboro
· Matt Rice, 6-foot- senior point guard from Carmi-White County
· Logan Thomas, 6-foot-3 junior forward from Union County, Ky.
• Nathan Schmittler, 6-foot-6 senior forward from Edwards County
Michael Dann covers prep and college sports for the Harrisburg Daily Register and Eldorado Daily Journal. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.