Monday, Dec. 29, 2008 | 10:03 p.m.
Of the many holiday prep basketball tournaments hosted in Southern Nevada this winter, likely none feature such a varied cast of teams in its bracket as the Henderson International School's Rock Holiday Classic.
Highlighting the stark contrast are the eight-team tournament's dual hosts — the Henderson International Wolverines and the Findlay Prep Pilots. While the Pilots are currently ranked No. 1 by high school recruiting site rivals.com, the Wolverines are ranked 10,079th by maxpreps.com.
The two teams both operate out of Henderson International School in Anthem, with the prep-school Pilots attracting the world's top talent to Henderson and playing in events across the nation. The Wolverines compete in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association's 1A classification, for schools with an enrollment of under 69 students.
The Pilots (10-0) demonstrated their strength in their first game of the tournament on Dec. 27 as they had four players reach double figures in beating South Miami High 88-26.
Despite the lopsided victory, Pilots coach Michael Peck said the tournament provides valuable court time for his team and allows them to schedule home games which have become scarce for the college preparatory program.
"We get a lot out of a well-run tournament like this, namely it helps us get games on our schedule," Peck said. "We get home games and we don't have to travel — that's big for us."
With a game against North Carolina's Mount Zion, the team Peck calls the Pilots' toughest opponent, scheduled for Jan. 3, Peck said the Pilots are using their games in the Rock Holiday Classic as a means of warming up.
"The big thing this tournament allows us to do is to get everyone playing," Peck said. "We're getting our bench involved and if we can get our bench players going we'll be very tough to beat. As opponents get tire we can just keep bringing guys at them because we have that kind of depth."
Peck said the tournament's format will change in upcoming years to feature two brackets — one for nationally-ranked prep teams like the Pilots and one for smaller schools like Henderson International.
Henderson International (5-6) got off to a rocky start with a 74-55 loss to Florida's Lake Mary High, but Athletic Director Mike Ostrowski said playing larger enrollment teams from outside Nevada was a major preseason goal this year.
"We might not be on the level of a Findlay Prep but we feel we're competitive with all the other teams in this tournament," Ostrowski said. "These kids are growing accustomed to handling pressure I'm not sure a lot of other teams in our league can apply. That's why I feel we can be mentioned as a team in the running for a state title."
Jared Harmon can be reached at 990-8922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.