CALDWELL, NJ - They're back. After being relegated to local high school gyms for the past couple of years, for various reasons, the West Essex Area High School Hoops Festival (WEAHHF), an event that features the girls and boys basketball battalions from James Caldwell, Verona and Cedar Grove High Schools along with West Essex Regional, will return to the Newman Center on the Caldwell University campus late next month.
The spacious hoops facility at the Newman Center will host four first-round games at 2:30, 4, 5:30 and 7 p.m. on Dec. 28, and then a pair of consolation contests, followed by the back-to-back title tilts, at those same times the following day.
On day one, Dec. 28, it will be the Verona boys battling their Cedar Grove counterparts in the opener, followed by the Lady Hillbillies going up against the Lady Chiefs, the Wessex boys vs. crosstown competitor Caldwell and, in the nightcap, the Lady Knights clashing with the Lady Panthers.
On day two, Dec. 29, the order is as follows: the girls consolation contest, the boys consolation clash, the girls title tilt and, finally, the boys championship confrontation.
The first such event in the nation to be sponsored by a commercial entity, the WEAHHF was founded in the late 1970's and was originally known as the West Essex Chamber of Commerce Basketball Tournament.
However, after the chamber ended its sponsorship of the tourney late last century, it was renamed the “West Essex Area Holiday Hoops Festival” by W. L. Bill Allen, Jr., the Director of NJSportAction.NET, who, at that time, was the only local journalist who covered all four schools as a longtime sports writer for both The Progress newspaper and the Verona-Cedar Grove Times.
“It's just wonderful to be back at Caldwell University,” celebrated Allen, who currently serves as the event's media liaison, adding, “The Newman Center is not only a terrific place to play and/or watch a game, but it's a neutral court, so that makes this an even better situation for all the teams involved.”
“We at Caldwell University are very, very happy to have this event back on our campus; it's a great event which includes the four local high schools and that's what makes it so special,” summed up CU sports facilities manager Dennis Gregory, adding, “We're really looking forward to it.”