We’re 24 hours away from the 44th annual Ada News All-Star Classic.

It should be a great afternoon of high school basketball. Fans will be able to cheer for their favorite seniors one last time.

However, this year’s basketball extravaganza will feature many firsts.

The All-Star Classic will be conducted inside Ada High School’s Cougar Activity Center for the first time since the gorgeous building opened in 2003. And in this sports writer’s opinion, it’s long overdue.

Tip-off for the girls contest is set for 1:30 p.m., with the boys game to follow at 3 p.m.

The Cougar Activity Center — known affectionately as the ACAC (pronounced A-cack) by Cougars everywhere — is host to one of the nicest gymnasiums in the region. It will be a treat for this year’s All-Stars to get a chance to show off their skills in such a nice venue.

A special “thank you” goes out to Ada girls basketball coach Christie Jennings for making it happen.

That’s not to say the Ada Area Coaches Association isn’t appreciative of schools like Byng, Konawa and most recently, Stonewall, which have each hosted past All-Star Classics. Every one of those sites has been fantastic. It’s just really neat that Ada will get its opportunity to host the event for the first time in the 14-year existence of its super facility.

Since the planning portion of the contest was handed over to yours truly many years ago, it’s the first time the All-Star Classic has been held on a Saturday afternoon. After visiting with some of the area’s veteran coaches, they recommended giving it a shot. Hopefully, plenty of local fans can attend during this time frame.

In the past the Classic was scheduled for a Wednesday evening to stay away from graduations, sports banquets and other types of events held on nearly every other day of the week. Everyone involved is looking forward to seeing how a Saturday afternoon of basketball works out.

It’s also the first time fans will be asked to donate to a local charity. This year’s benefactor is Abba’s Tables. If those in attendance can spare a dollar or two, it will go to a great cause.

Another new feature will be the addition of local musician Tayler House, a graduate of Latta High School, singing the national anthem. Hearing that talented young lady sing will be worth the price of admission.

Area basketball coaches are ask to remind their players to show up at 11:30 a.m. Saturday for the preliminary rounds of the always popular 3-point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest. Those events are open to any varsity players from grades 9-12.

The finalists will compete at halftime of the girls and boys contest that afternoon.

Jennings, who will also coach the West girls All-Star team, is looking forward to having the games at Ada High.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to coach the All-Star game this year. There are several reasons that make it special,” she said.

“First, it’s going to be held at the ACAC, and obviously the most important reason being that I get to coach my seniors one more time,” Jennings said. “I think it’s going to be a great day of basketball in both the boys and girls games. We have a really talented group of seniors in this area.”

We hope to see you there.

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.