By Ron Pesch

It’s too bad actor Ving Rhames, the recognizable voice of Arby’s restaurant commercials over the past six years, isn’t a member of the board of directors for the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.

He would be the ideal voice for advertisements pitching the Muskegon area’s top Holiday entertainment bargain.

“Three Games! Five Bucks! Prep Basketball at its Best!”

For 19 years, the Hall of Fame has presented their Holiday Classic basketball tournament.

The showcase event makes its return after a one-year absence. Like so many things, the 2020 event was canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.

Cam Martinez looks across court before taking the ball out of bounds for Muskegon during the 2019 event. Photo/Jason Goorman

With countless folks coming home for the holidays, the games over the years have often served as a reunion – something many look forward to attending. Presented during the calendar week that separates Christmas and New Year’s Day, it’s an ideal chance to gather together while watching some of the area’s top teams and supporting area student-athletes and athletics.

An annual fund-raising event since its inception in 2002, the Classic has returned more than $145,000 over its lifetime to area high school athletic programs, thanks in large part to a generous group of donors, volunteers, and participants as well as the many attendees.

“The board of directors for the Muskegon Area Sports Hall Of Fame would like to thank the Muskegon community for their love and support over the years,” states Tony Williams, co-chair of this year’s Classic.

This year’s tournament, again hosted at Reeths-Puffer High School, tips off at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 28. The Cardinals of Orchard View square off with the Norsemen of North Muskegon in the opener, followed by Reeths-Puffer vs. Holland West Ottawa at 5:45 p.m. The grand finale again matches Muskegon vs. East Kentwood at approximately 7:30 p.m. Freshman and junior varsity boys games will be held earlier in the day at Reeths-Puffer.

Tickets will only be available at the gate. Because this is a charity event, meant to support the schools, no passes will be accepted.  

An Awesome and Breathtaking Past
The addition of Orchard View to the lineup this year increases the total number of different high schools to have participated in the Classic over the years to 25, most from the West Michigan area.

Muskegon Coach Keith Guy talks with Vernon Nash III during a break in action of the 2018 event. Photo/Joe Lane

Initially, the Classic was hosted at Mona Shores High School and played out over two days. Contests between North Muskegon, West Michigan Christian, Mona Shores and Muskegon Heights that first year featured NCAA Division 1 recruits Drew Naymick of North Muskegon (Michigan State), and Eddie Spencer of Muskegon Heights (Central Michigan). The success of the concept was quickly apparent.

With standing-room crowds on both nights, instantly, the tournament needed a new home for the varsity contests for its second year. Hence, the Classic was moved to the spacious fieldhouse at Reeths-Puffer High School in 2003, and once again “packed ’em in.”

In year two, the Hall of Fame resurrected the Muskegon-Muskegon Heights game that had been dormant for several years. A huge crowd of 3,400 spectators celebrated basketball at its best that night. Won by the Heights Tigers, 70-60, it kicked off an annual showdown between the two schools that spanned nine seasons, 2003-2011, insuring a sure-fire sellout for the games.

Since then, fans have watch some outstanding individual talent and strong teams play at the “Home of the Rockets”.

Travell Oaks, Deshawn Thrower, Deyonta Davis, and Jarvis Walker, all from Muskegon, Edward Sanders, David Fox, Marquis Brewer, Deontae Hudson, and Marquis Childers, each from the Heights, Grand Rapids Christian’s Xavier Tillman and Kobe Bufkin, Holland West Ottawa’s Jake VanTubbergen, Shelby’s D. J. Beckman, and Kentwood’s Ja’moni Jones are but a handful of players that have participated in past tournaments.

Ten games over the years have been decided by three points or less. The nightcap battle between Muskegon and East Kentwood, staged since 2012, has become a highlight, with electric finishes in 2014, 2017, 2018, and 2019. A 12-foot jumper with 3.1 seconds remaining by Micah Rosser of the 2014 Falcons snapped a 31-game win streak by the Big Reds. Eonte Tornes’ pass that lead to Amari Saucier’s buzzer-beater gave the Reds a 63-61 win over the Falcon’s in 2017.

Amari Saucier lets the winning shot fly for Muskegon. during the 2017 event when the Big Reds topped East Kentwood at the buzzer. Photo/Joe Lane

Who know what might be in store this year.

“Three Games! Five Bucks!” Catch some Muskegon Area Prep Basketball at its best this Holiday season.

For more on the Hall of Fame and history of the Holiday Classic, visit the organization’s website at

At Reeths-Puffer High School
Tickets: $5
(available only at the door)

Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021
4:00 p.m.: Orchard View vs. North Muskegon
5:45 p.m.: Reeths-Puffer vs. Holland West Ottawa
7:30 p.m.: Muskegon vs. East Kentwood