The teams are ready and the venues are set.

Now all that remains is to find out who will ascend the tournament mountain and claim the coveted golden ball at the summit.

It’s that time of year again. The 67th Annual Christmas Tournament presented by the Rome News-Tribune and the Seven Hills Rotary Club has arrived.

This year’s tournament will be hosted by Armuchee High School. Armuchee will be utilizing its two gymnasiums for the three-day event, which will feature some of the Rome area’s premier talent.

“Flexibility has been key for everybody this year,” Ballard Betz, president of the Seven Hills Rotary Club, said in a phone interview. “The tournament organizers ... want to put on a safe tournament first and foremost.”

Nine schools fielding 15 teams will descend on the Armuchee community, vying for the coveted title of tournament champions.

Those schools are Armuchee, Chattooga, Coosa, Darlington, Model, Pepperell, Rome, Unity Christian and Woodland (Cartersville).

The Unity Christian Lady Lions will be the lone Unity representative at the tournament, while Coosa and Pepperell will each be only fielding their boys’ teams.

The 2020 version of the Christmas tournament will be different from previous years.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, venue capacity at both of Armuchee High School’s gymnasiums will be capped at 25%. There will be limited gate sales.

All patrons will be required to wear masks upon entry to basketball games. Those who do not already have masks, they will be provided at the gate for a $1 charge.

“We have structured the tournament in a way we feel meets those (safety) guidelines,” Betz said. “The gymnasiums themselves will be restricted to 25% capacity which allows for ample social distancing in the stands. As far as the 25% capacity goes, unfortunately, its first-come, first-served. We asked our coaches and principals to spread the message that entrance priority should be given to parents and primary caregivers of the athletes.”

Due to limited patron attendance at this year’s holiday tournament, games taking place in Armuchee High School’s new gymnasium will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Betz said the resources to livestream the tournament are only available in the newer gymnasium.

“We’ve contracted with some IT professionals in the community and they have put together the technology and the team to livestream the games at the new gym at Armuchee High School,” Betz said.

To livestream games on YouTube, type into the search bar “Rome Rotary Christmas Tournament,” click on the “Rome Rotary Christmas Tournament” Channel and watch the quest for the Golden Ball unfold.

“It’s a great community event,” Betz said. “There was a lot of speculation the tournament would not happen this year, but the athletes wanted to play and the community wanted to see some basketball, so we put together a program that we think takes safety into consideration but also makes the tournament possible.”

The Christmas Tournament will run from Wednesday through Friday.

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