The holidays are here and one of the many things folks have to look forward to is the annual basketball tournament sponsored by McDonald’s of Fayette County and Jamestown.
Athletic directors from the four participating schools met at the McDonald’s at I-71 and US 35 Thursday to discuss and finalize plans for this year’s tournament.
“We’re honored to sponsor this tournament,” Nick Epifano, owner and operator of McDonald’s of Fayette County and Jamestown, said. “It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since we took over from Gusweiler’s, who did an outstanding job with the tournament before we took it over.
“It’s always been one of our things to give back to the communities that we serve,” Epifano said. “It’s awesome to be able to tie in with these other school systems that are around us and be able to do something to help them out with uniforms and those types of things.
“It’s been pretty substantial what’s been raised over 11 years to help these school systems,” Epifano said. “At the end of the day, it helps the kids and that’s what we’re all about.”
Greeneview High School will again be the site this year of the girls’ varsity tournament, to be held Wednesday, Dec. 26 and Friday, Dec. 28.
The Panther Pit at Miami Trace High School will once more (and for the final time) be the host site of the varsity boys’ basketball tournament on Thursday, Dec. 27 and Saturday, Dec. 29.
On each of those evenings, the first round games will be played at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The consolation games will be played at 6:30 p.m. and the championship games at 8 p.m.
The match-ups will feature Greeneview vs Miami Trace and London vs Madison Plains.
“It’s nice that we are in our 23rd year of participation in the holiday tournament,” Miami Trace Athletic Director Aaron Hammond said. “Miami Trace is one of the original participants of the tournament that was put together by Miami Trace Athletic Director Charlie Andrews and Pete Bartkowiak of Madison Plains.
“Over the years it’s progressed from the Kroger Holiday Tournament to the Gusweiler’s Holiday Tournament and now we’re in our 11th year of sponsorship by Nick Epifano of McDonald’s of Fayette County and Jamestown, and we’re very appreciative of Nick’s involvement in our tournament.
“The teams participating in the tournament have changed over the years, but here in the last eight or nine years, we’ve had the same participants,” Hammond said. “We’ve built some relationships. We’ve been in leagues with each other, we’ve been out of leagues with each other. But, we can always point to the holiday tournament as a chance to compete against our neighboring schools.”
As part of participating in the tournament, each year two schools receive $2,000 each toward new uniforms, Hammond noted.
“Last year, it was Greeneview and Miami Trace the $2,000 stipend,” Hammond said. “This year Madison Plains and London will receive $2,000 each, in addition to a four-way split of the gate receipts.”
“We’ve been in the tournament for several years now,” Greeneview High School Athletic Director Mark Rinehart said. “The relationships that we have with the other three schools have grown over the years.
“I want to thank Mr. Epifano (owner and operator of McDonald’s of Fayette County and Jamestown) for everything he’s done, the support he’s given to the kids is tremendous,” Rinehart said. “Our kids are excited. It gives them the opportunity to fight and battle for a tournament title over the holidays.”
“It’s something we look forward to every year,” Rinehart said.
The championship teams at the varsity level, boys and girls, receive a plaque.
There will also be an all-tournament team for the boys’ and girls’ varsity tournaments, comprised of six players, one of whom will be named the Most Valuable Player.
All-tournament team members will receive a pullover, courtesy of McDonald’s of Fayette County and Jamestown.
“The involvement of Nick Epifano and McDonald’s of Fayette County and Jamestown has been a huge plus for this tournament,” Hammond said. “He’s sponsored the tournament for the past 11 years. It benefits our kids by allowing them to play in a holiday tournament that is relatively close to home. People can travel to watch their children and grandchildren, relatives and friends play without having to go too far from home during the holiday season.
“Nick has been such a blessing to Miami Trace Schools in particular, not only from the athletic standpoint, but for all he does for our middle school and elementary programs, as well,” Hammond said.
“We love being in this tournament,” Madison Plains High School Athletic Director Matt Mason said. “We’ll be in it as long as they’ll have us and I hope that’s a long time from today.
“Not only do we love the monetary value of it, which we do,” Mason said. “The gates are great; we split those four ways. And then every other year we get a uniform supplemental from Mr. Epifano. London and Madison Plains receive that this season, so, we’re very excited about that. That’s kind of how we rotate around with our boys and girls basketball uniforms. It’s a great benefit for us.
“We’ve been in the tournament so long that people kind of plan on attending around their other holiday activities,” Mason said. “Folks often come in from out of town to watch the kids in a great venue play against teams they know.
“This is my eighth year as athletic director and we’ve been in the tournament every year,” Mason said. “Every year we are treated great. Our kids have come to expect it. We get great pullovers and trophies. We’re very appreciative of Mr. Epifano’s generosity.”
“This is my seventh year as athletic director at London,” Jimmy Wolverton said. “We’ve been in the tournament multiple years before that. When I was an athlete at Madison Plains, we were in it then.
“It’s always a great tournament,” Wolverton said. “We’re always thankful for Mr. Epifano’s support and putting together a great tournament for folks to come out and watch. It puts our kids in a situation to compete at a high level before we actually get to tournament time, so they get something of the feel of tournament basketball before we get to tournament time.
“And every two years we can get new uniforms for our boys basketball team and two years later, we can get new uniforms for the girls team,” Wolverton said. “None of that would be possible if not for Mr. Epifano supporting the cause and helping to put this on.”
Folks can watch an interview conducted by Randy Young with Nick Epifano and the four athletic directors on Facebook. That address is: https://www.facebook.com/McDonaldsFayetteCoOhio/videos/196308261273601/.