The Portland Bulldogs/Maine Red Claws Holiday Tournament Basketball Classic will be held Dec. 26-29 at the Portland Expo.

This is the 26th consecutive year that a holiday tournament has been held at the Expo.

“It’s a tournament within a tournament,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo.

“The first day will have exhibition games with four Class A teams playing three Class B teams and a Class C team. The tournament starts the next day. The team that wins three games will win the tournament,” he said.

There will be girls’ games, but not as part of a tournament.

Two New York teams from Staten Island are in the tournament. Susan Wagner High, a tournament regular, and Moore Catholic High open play on Thursday night.

Russo is excited about the tournament and the opening exhibition games.

“It’s always fun to watch Class A teams play Class B teams,” he said.

“We had a good crowd last year for the opening night.”

The opening boys’ exhibition Wednesday will have Sanford vs. Yarmouth at 3:30 p.m. Bonny Eagle will play Penquis Valley, an Eastern Class C school, at 5 p.m. At 6:30, Deering and Greely will play, followed by the nightcap between unbeatens Portland and Falmouth.

Because SMAA teams now play regular-season games during the holiday break, none are in the tournament proper.

Admission prices for the tournament are $5 for adults, $2 for students and $3 for senior citizens. One ticket is good for all games that day.

EARLY-SEASON ACTION has shown that the favorites are living up to their preseason billing. In Western Class A, Deering, Portland, Bonny Eagle and South Portland are off to fast starts.

Deering, the defending Class A state champion, has leaned on its 6-foot-6 center, Labson Abwoch. Abwoch has scored 12, 29 and 22 points in the first three games. He’s gotten good support from Dominic Lauture, Thiwat Thiwat and Ahmed Ahmed.

Portland’s Matt Talbot opened the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Marshwood. Against Cheverus, Talbot scored 21 points, including 15 in the second quarter when the Bulldogs scored 27 points to break it open.

Bonny Eagle is led by junior guard Dustin Cole, who erupted for 39 points in an opening-game win over Sanford. He scored 19 in the first quarter in the next game against Massabesic.

South Portland point guard Tanner Hyland has scored 21, 24 and 24 in his first three games. Hyland has been looking for his shot more than in the previous two seasons, when he was more of a playmaker.

“Tanner has been a great scorer, but he’s also getting everyone involved in the offense,” said South Portland Coach Phil Conley. He’s running the offense, scoring, distributing the ball and doing a great job.

“We have seven seniors and they’re providing outstanding leadership.”

South Portland hosts Deering on Jan. 4.

Unbeatens Falmouth and York look like the class of Western Class B. They are carbon copies of one another in terms of height and the number of scorers. They play Jan. 3 at Falmouth and Feb. 5 at York.

“It’s those two, and the rest of us fighting for the other spots,” said Wells Coach Troy Brown, whose team has won four straight after an opening loss.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

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