Organizers of the 2009 KeyBank Holiday Classic have not had the easiest road in producing this season's tournament. After the former sponsor, Kroger, backed out, Classic officials were scrambling to find an interested party.

Organizers of the 2009 KeyBank Holiday Classic have not had the easiest road in producing this season's tournament. After the former sponsor, Kroger, backed out, Classic officials were scrambling to find an interested party.

With about a month to go until Monday's tipoff, KeyBank signed to become the new sponsor.

Meanwhile, organizers were waiting for a fourth team to accept a bid in order to keep the tournament's recent style in tact -- four Ohio teams vs. four out-of-state teams. Every year, the tournament featured a top team from Tennessee.

Until now.

"We held on waiting for a Tennessee team as long as we could," North coach Dave Butcher said.

Finally, North athletics director Mark Aprile approached Butcher.

"What do you think of another local team," Aprile asked.

Aprile had New Albany on his radar. After Butcher gave him the nod, the Eagles became the fifth Ohio team to join the Classic's lineup. This season will be the first time in Classic history there has been five Ohio teams.

Having the Eagles come to Pickerington made sense in more than one instance.

"You cannot have any worse days than Monday through Wednesday," Butcher said. "There are no weekend days and we felt we wanted to bring in another local team to help attendance. New Albany has Haley and Hannah Robertson twins going to Miami, so on paper it seemed as if they would be a good draw and interesting matchup to go with five Ohio teams."

Joining North and New Albany as Ohio representatives are Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, Dayton Chaminade-Julienne and Solon.

"Last year was our first time in that tournament, and it was a total class act," Mount Notre Dame coach Dante Harlan said. "We've been in many tournaments in the past few years and it was the best-run tournament we've been in. The hospitality was great and we wanted to come back. As for the reason for adding another state team, that comes down to planning. I don't think it really means one thing or another. There's going to be great competition there no matter where the teams come from."

Mount Notre Dame beat Chicago Bogan 49-23 for the Classic title last season. The Cougars cruised to the title by winning all three tournament games by an average of 20.7 points. Mount Notre Dame finished 27-1 and won their fourth-consecutive Division I state championship.

Southwest Ohio's talent doesn't end in Cincinnati. Mount Norte Dame's neighbor to the north, Chaminade-Julienne, features McDonald's All-American Samara Walker.

The Classic opens 3 p.m. Monday with a must-see battle between Walker and

Louisville (Ky.) duPont Manual's Zhakiyah Shahid-Martin. Martin is a 6-foot-3 post player ranked as one of the top five players in Kentucky.

"With this being our first time to the tournament, I'm not sure how or why things were done differently than in past years," duPont Manual coach Stacy Pendleton said. "I know they've invited us the past three years and I was told they go after the top team in Kentucky every year. I do know that it is a nationally prestigious tournament with great competition, so we're looking forward to our first trip to Pickerington."

As for the other two out-of-state teams, Morgantown (W. Va.) won a state championship in 2006 and Radnor (Pa.) John Carroll was ranked second in the state last season. John Carroll returns a point guard and St. Joe's recruit Erin Shields.

The Classic's overall talent has some participating teams excited to witnesses the competition firsthand.

"We as a staff will be watching every basketball game and we'll ask our kids to watch some of these (out-of-state) basketball teams," New Albany coach Jamie Puryear said. "It will be good for us to get the opportunity to see these teams and hopefully we get a chance to face a team like Pickerington North."

At a glance

•What: KeyBank Holiday Classic

•Where: Pickerington High School North

•When: Monday through Wednesday

•The field: Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame, Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, Louisville (Ky.) duPont Manual, Morgantown (W.Va.), New Albany, Pickerington North, Radnor (Pa.) John Carroll and Solon

•Tickets: Available at the Pickerington North athletics department. Three-day books (12 games) are $25 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Daily passes are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. No single-game tickets are available.

The 2009 KeyBank

Holiday Classic

Monday through Wednesday at Pickerington High School North