PANAMA CITY — Bay will feel right at home after the holiday and much of that will be due to seeing unfamiliar faces patrolling the John L. Cobb Gymnasium.
The Tornadoes host the 13th annual Bay Barnstorm Christmas Classic Thursday through Saturday. Bay is the lone area school in the eight-team tournament, which features four games a day culminating with the championship at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Bay seeks a resurgence in its event, as it was one of the top contenders from 2001-2008. The Tornadoes had six title game appearances in that stretch, including their lone championship in 2001 over Chipley. They have slumped since with fourth- and sixth-place finishes in the past two Barnstorms.
The Tornadoes are young with six sophomores, led by center Corey Brown. Darreyen Sims is the only senior in the group, which also features scoring threat Ryan Norwood, who is one of three juniors.
The road to a championship game appearance is paved with talented opponents in what should make for a well-rounded tournament stable. Bay is one of two teams from Florida, joining North Florida Educational Institute of Jacksonville, which has had a marked rise since the school was founded in 2006. It is one of the smallest schools in the Barnstorm, competing on the Class 2A level, along with St. Luke’s Episcopal of Alabama, a private school slotted in 1A.
The remainder of the teams are larger schools from Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. The list is led by Dickson County and Franklin of Tennessee, both of which have appeared in past Barnstorms. Franklin won the 2008 title and Dickson County was second last year.
Hewitt-Trussville of Alabama comes from the state’s largest classification. Fairdale of Kentucky and Enterprise, Ala., a late addition when Cairo, Ga., chose to participate in a tournament closer to home, complete the field.
A daily pass is $7 for the Barnstorm, and a tournament pass for all games is $16. Aside from media and college recruiters with ID, no other passes will be accepted at the gate. There is no single-game admission charge, only the all-day price of $7.