During the last week of the Holiday break, Springstead held their 4th Annual New Year’s Shootout. Eight high school basketball teams from Fort Myers to neighboring Pasco County joined to battle it out on the court for championship bragging rights.
Springstead’s head coach Matthew McGarry coordinated this event as well as re-named the New Year’s Shootout tournament last year after one particular and highly respected gentlemen, Greg O’Connell.
“When Matt approached me and asked me if I’d mind him naming their tournament after me, (I said) ‘Hey, that would be great!’” O’Connell said. “That’s a nice honor really when you think about it, to still be thought of to where someone would say let’s name it after you, it was pretty neat.”
Even today as Mr. O’Connell attends these games, memories still replay where he stood courtside for twenty-three years (1977-2000) as Springstead Head Basketball coach.
“Naming it the ‘Greg O’Connell Shootout,’ who better than to name this after, he is the reason we can come here and do the things we do,” McGarry said. “He laid the foundation for us, so for me to give him the name, that’s the least I can do for him.”
“He was one of our first basketball coaches here at Springstead before they even had a gym. I remember him telling me stories having to split practice time with Hernando at their gym,” said Springstead Athletic Director Dustin Kupcik. “He is a tremendous supporter of the Springstead basketball [program] and coach McGarry.”
For those basketball teams that participate in these tournaments, there are no holiday breaks. It’s pushing forward to bring the best out of these players and the best out of the team against some competition outside their district.
“I think it’s good for the teams that come in, I think it’s good for the kids to be busy, stay busy over the break especially in the midst of the basketball season and I think it’s great for the community,” McGarry said.
“We would have loved to won the whole thing, but I told those guys in there today if you’re able to go into these holiday tournaments and go two and one, you did your job… we did that two years in a row now. And hopefully, this will catapult us where we should be for the second half of the season,” McGarry added.
Tuesday’s (Jan 02) Results:
Mitchell 59 vs.Central 64, Wildwood 72 vs. Land O’ Lakes 65 (Tied at 60 and went into OT), Cypress Lake 48 vs.Wesley Chapel 70, Cypress Creek 41 vs.Springstead 80
Wednesday’s (Jan 03)Results
Mitchell 64 vs. Land O’ Lakes 90, Cypress Lake 66 vs.Cypress Creek 55, Central 39 vs.Wildwood 53, Wesley 62 Chapel vs.Springstead 51
Thursday’s (Jan 04) Championship Results
Tournament Winner: Wildwood
Wesley Chapel dominated the court during the first half, but Wildwood offense surpassed them leaving the Wildcats with a 13 point loss.
Wildwood 72 vs. Wesley Chapel 59
Consolation: Land O’ Lakes 60 vs. Cypress Lake 21
7th Place: Springstead 48 vs. Central 34
8th Place: Mitchell 79 vs. Cypress Creek 75
Kupcik explained that community involvement is essential and having these tournaments gives the community a way to be involved with the schools’ sports programs as well as seeing what Springstead is all about.
“It puts Springstead in the spotlight.” Kupcik said, “When he (Coach McGarry) took over, it was something he wanted to do, and he does a tremendous job organizing things.”
“I think this is the best group that we fielded yet in its fourth year of the tournament and looks like it’s only getting stronger,” said McGarry.