PAWTUCKET – Point, meet counterpoint.
In keeping with the spirit of an article that ran in this newspaper on Dec. 14 –“Could Donaldson, Lynch tourneys be merged?” – Tolman High athletic director John Scanlon earlier this week unveiled a detailed plan of a Blackstone Valley-themed preseason boys’ basketball tournament. The names – the James W. Donaldson Memorial Tournament and the Dennis M. Lynch Tournament – would still be kept, albeit with several interesting caveats.
How Scanlon sees it is that each tournament would retain its four-team field. The competition would be spread over a two-day period, also a staple of the current arrangement of the two tourneys centered around preserving the memories of a pair of legendary city coaches.
Drum roll please, as here comes the fresh twist. The winners of the respective tournaments would emerge to play in a title game, completing a three-games-in-three-nights odyssey that would kick off on a Thursday and wrap up on Saturday.
“If they want to have a consolation game, you could have the two teams that lost in the finals (of the Donaldson and Lynch) meet,” explained Scanlon while seated inside his office.
The next order of business Scanlon discussed was the makeup of the two fields for each hoops festival.
“(The Lynch) tournament would consist of private schools and (the Donaldson) would consist of public schools,” he noted. “To make it more local, (the Donaldson) would include Central Falls and Woonsocket. I look at (the Lynch) and see St. Raphael, Providence Country Day, Bishop Feehan and perhaps Mount St. Charles. I don’t want to tell (the Lynch folks) what teams to have in their tournament, but I would like to see public vs. private.
“I think it’s a winner for everyone,” Scanlon added. “Especially at the gate, especially that last night.”
A few issues to consider. Central Falls and Woonsocket have been on the Lynch side of the fence for the last couple of years. The head coaches, Brian Crookes of C.F. and Woonsocket’s Kyle Ivey-Jones, have cherished bringing their respective teams to the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club, reiterating so whenever the chance presents.
With those loyalty-to-the-Lynch sentiments in mind, it may be tough to sway the Warriors and Villa Novans over to the Donaldson side of the bracket.
The venue for this all-encompassing championship matchup is also up for conjecture. While Scanlon wouldn’t close the books on the possibility having the game take place at Donaldson Gymnasium, he noted that capacity issues would probably hinder the game’s chance of taking place at Tolman High.
The best option would be SRA’s Wellness Center, with its ability to comfortably seat fans on both sides of the court.
“As far as that championship game, I say definitely the first year you play at either St. Raphael or the Boys & Girls Club, just to see,” Scanlon said. “If it’s a big draw, then you keep it at one of those two places.”
Also, by tacking on a third game, teams would feel the pinch in relation to other non-league options. In Rhode Island there’s a hard cap (22 league and non-league games, which doesn’t include the Injury Fund) that the Interscholastic League adheres to. If the Lynch-Donaldson merger comes to fruition, that would put a crimp in a team’s ability to enter any further in-season, multi-game tournaments, since 18 league contests already appear on the ledger.
“You would have to find somebody else to play,” Scanlon said.
Then there’s the naming rights for this grand finale. Donaldson-Lynch? What about Lynch-Donaldson?
“We could have a contest,” Scanlon grinned.
Scanlon admits he started brainstorming shortly after the story that sparked this conversation appeared in Blackstone Valley Sports. In that article Jim Hoyt, the CEO of the city’s Boys & Girls Club, expressed a strong desire to have an area-based tournament that would include St. Raphael, Tolman, Shea and Central Falls.
“It can only make for an exciting kickoff to any Interscholastic League season,” Hoyt said at the time.
The ball was then placed in the Donaldson camp, and Scanlon has responded with a plan that would preserve the tradition associated with the two tournaments while serving as the perfect wet-your-whistle appetizer for league play – assuming that early December remains the target date to hold this.
“We don’t want to give up the Donaldson Tournament and they don’t want to give up the Lynch Tournament,” Scanlon said. “This would satisfy that, and we’re adding one more thing to it.”