RIO GRANDE, Ohio - Smack in the middle of the Christmas holiday season, local basketball fans will have an opportunity to do some serious one-stop shopping on Saturday at the University of Rio Grande’s Newt Oliver Arena.
The 7th annual Newt Oliver Coaches Classic features a five-game slate that includes a pair of prep schools, a handful of area high school squads and the RedStorm themselves.
The day gets started at noon with a matchup between Spire Institute Basketball Academy from Geneva (OH) and St. Ignatios Prep from Spartanburg, S.C., which precedes a high school showdown between Wheelersburg and Jackson at approximately 2 p.m.
At around 4 p.m., Boyd County High School squares off with Fairland High School before the Rio Grande men’s team entertains Ohio University-Lancaster at approximately 6 p.m.
The final game of the day pits Chesapeake High School against Athens High School at approximately 8 p.m.
The event is named in honor of former Rio Grande coach Newt Oliver, who guided the Bevo Francis-led Redmen to a 60-7 record from 1952-54, including a perfect 39-0 mark during the 1952-53 campaign.
“One of things we wanted to do with this was to honor some outstanding coaches and teams in our area but, moreso, to promote the game of basketball - that’s what Newt did,” said Rio Grande head coach Ken French. “He was a master, one of the best in the history of college basketball, when it came to promoting the game. He promoted the teams that he had with Bevo and, when you look through the history of small college basketball, there’s none better. Newt orchestrated things that will never be duplicated again. The Classic is a great way for us to promote the game and, at the same time, pay respect to coach Oliver and his legacy.”
Rio Grande will be trying to break a four-game losing streak and remain perfect all-time against OU-Lancaster.
The RedStorm is coming off of an 83-66 loss at No. 4 Pikeville on Saturday - a game in which Rio led by as many as nine points late in the first half and back six points at halftime.
“We need to get off the schnide,” French said. “We’ve lost our last four games and nobody’s happy about it. We’ve got a little identity crisis going on with our team right. We’re struggling to figure out who we are. We’ll get back on track, though. I think, when we execute a system for 40 minutes, we’ve got the opportunity to be a pretty good basketball team.”
French also offered his thanks to Buffalo Wild Wings of Gallipolis for serving as the event sponsor.
“They’re new to the area and they want to be involved. Hopefully, it’s a relationship we can continue to build on. And what a great day for them to make their debut,” French said. “We’re looking forward to having a bunch of kids on our campus and seeing some good games and some good players. Anybody who says they’re a basketball fans should make sure that they’re here on Saturday. They can come for game or stay for them all - I think it’ll be money well-spent either way.”