Celebrate the Holiday Season at the Beach Ball Classic

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The Christmas season on the Grand Strand features all the traditional holiday celebrations — parades, live music and shows, and Santa Claus sightings. But unlike other locales, Myrtle Beach also hosts two major high school basketball tournaments that magically transform the Strand into a hoops wonderland for folks who can't get enough top-flight basketball action.

The 36th Annual Beach Ball Classic, known as the nation's premier holiday high school hoops tournament, headlines the basketball lineup Dec. 26-31 and attracts 16 of the top boys’ teams in the country to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The opening act, the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational, is held Dec. 17-22 and features 16 of the best girls’ teams in the nation.

This two-week hoops-apalooza has become a Christmas wish fulfilled for local and visiting basketball fans looking to enjoy nonstop action on the court and lots of Myrtle Beach fun off the hardwood. Guests at Bay View on the Boardwalk can take in all the games while also having a good time experiencing the attractions, shopping and dining along the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Bay View is only a short walk to the downtown district and just 2 miles from all the action at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

This year's CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational features South Carolina powers Myrtle Beach, Socastee, Dreher and Orangeburg-Wilkerson hosting South Shore (NY), Prairie View (CO), Hillside (NC), Monacan (VA), Winder-Barrow (GA), Lake Highland Prep (FL), Wesleyan (GA), Ferguson (FL), Norcross (GA), Carmel Christian (NC), Harris County (GA) and Franklin County (KY). The tournament bracket gets underway Dec. 17, with the championship and consolation games scheduled for the Dec. 22 finale.

Following a brief break for Christmas, the basketball action continues Dec. 26 with the opening round of the Beach Ball Classic. This year's field features teams from the USA Today Top 25 rankings. The lineup includes local teams Myrtle Beach and Socastee hosting Bishop Gorman (NV), Christ the King (NY), Evanston Township (IL), Pace Academy (GA), Jonesboro (GA), Imhotep Charter (PA), McQuaid Jesuit (NY), Providence (FL), Westchester (CA), Bishop O'Connell (VA), Dillard (FL), Westlake (GA), Scott County (KY) and Canadian power Father Henry Carr. The championship games are scheduled for New Year's Eve.

In addition to featuring several teams ranked in the national Top 25 polls, the Beach Ball Classic also draws blue-chip players who are future college and NBA stars. Past players include Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and a long list of other NBA All-Stars, and big-time college coaches sit courtside to evaluate the year’s crop of talent.

This year's lineup features six seniors ranked in the 2017 Rivals top 100 — No. 5-ranked Pace Academy center Wendall Carter, No. 27-rated Jonesboro standout M.J. Walker, No. 50 Bishop Gorman star Charles O’Bannon, No. 55 Westlake forward Chuma Okeke and No. 75 Evanston Township guard Nojel Eastern. Westlake also has a highly ranked junior in No. 50 Jamie Lewis. Socastee’s 7-foot-1 center Jason Cudd recently committed to play at the University of South Carolina.

Even non-hoops fans can have a blast at the Beach Ball Classic, which features between-game and halftime entertainment taking the floor at Lambo Arena. Dancers, singers, double-dutch teams and more give the crowd a brief break from the action to enjoy the show. Food and apparel vendors are on hand to serve up snacks and souvenirs, and the championship game is followed by a big New Year’s Eve bash at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for an additional fee. Single-day tickets are available at the box office, and tournament ticket packages are available by visiting www.beachballclassic.com.