By Calli Newberry
The Blue Water Holiday Tournament is back this year after missing out on some great local girls basketball games last season.
Port Huron High will host the two-day tournament as Port Huron Northern, Marysville, and Croswell-Lexington will travel to compete in the annual event. Marysville will play Cros-Lex first at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 20, followed by Port Huron and Northern at 7 p.m.
The winners of each of the first two games will play each other on Tuesday, Dec. 21, the losers will play a consolation game.
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Becky Gilbert, head coach for the Port Huron girls basketball team, said her teams have been a part of this tournament since she took over the program in 2013. She said she enjoys the community involvement as it brings together schools that wouldn’t normally play one another.
“It’s nice because it’s all our local teams and nice to bring them in for people in the community to come watch in one place,” Gilbert said. “It gives people something to maybe do on a Monday or Tuesday and there’s been an increased number of supporters for girls basketball in our community, so it’s nice to be close and allow friends and family to come to the games.”
In addition to the fun it is for teams to play against each other, Gilbert also said it’s fun to coach against the coaches she’s worked with over the years: Ryan Rathje, Marysville; Kevin Landschoot, Northern; and Katelyn Frostic, Cros-Lex.
“It’s a good chance for all of us coaches in the area to be together and coach against each other and just have those conversations and relationships. I haven’t met Katelyn yet, but just working with Kevin and Ryan, they’re some great people and great coaches. It’s a great environment for this tournament,” Gilbert said. “I think that’s a really cool feature how we as coaches all work together to do something for not only our own teams and players, but for the community too.”
Marysville is a likely favorite this year as the Vikings boast a 2-0 record and have already defeated Northern (2-2) once. Cros-Lex (0-2) is a young team with a new coach, so there are many firsts for the Pioneers this season. And the Big Reds are a young team as well and currently hold a 2-1 record, but they’re also the reigning champions from the tournament when it was last held in 2019.
And while the tournament brings together the same four teams it has for the last decade, there is one special difference. The area coaches decided to name it the Jim Whymer Blue Water Holiday Tournament after the beloved Blue Water Area sportswriter, Jim Whymer.
“This year, we were all in agreement that we’d like to add his name in there to honor him because he was just an exceptional person in our community for high school sports,” Gilbert said. “He was a phenomenal guy and always did such a great job with writing about high school sports.”
Whymer spent the majority of his prolific sports writing career at The Times Herald, where he covered sports in the area from 1978 to 2012. He then became the Community Relations Specialist at St. Clair County Community College and continued to write about St. Clair County high school athletics as a freelance journalist. Whymer was even inducted into the Port Huron Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
On Sept. 24, 2020, Whymer died after a six-year battle with metastatic melanoma. He left behind a legacy of passionate involvement in Blue Water Area athletics. He was always writing about sports, officiating a game, or watching as a spectator.
“He was just a good supporter for high school sports in our area,” Gilbert said, “and we wanted to make sure we honored him by naming the tournament after him.”