THE CLASSIC HISTORY
THE CLASSIC HISTORY
In December of 1981, the inaugural ‘Damien Cage Classic’ first took place. At the time Ray
Plutko, then Commissioner of the CIF was a part of the Damien Booster Club, as three of
his sons played basketball and are alumni here at Damien. He had the idea to start a
basketball tournament and Ray served as the original tournament director. At the time
Coach Mike LeDuc was in his 3rd year as Head Basketball Coach here at Damien.
That first year was a 16 team format and saw South Pasadena defeat Damien in the final
game 57-51. The ‘Cage Classic’ continued until 1994 which ended a 13 year run of having
In January of 2016, the idea floated around to resurrect the original tournament. The idea was to create an opportunity for quality teams to compete against quality opponents in a first class setting that was affordable to the schools without the need to travel overnight. A group of basketball enthusiasts met and a committee was formed and met regularly to
organize and plan this event. In trying to keep a little of the history and also recognizing that it has been 35 years since its beginning, the tournament was renamed ‘The Classic at Damien” with a 48 team, 3 division format. The tournament featured some of the finest high school basketball programs in California, Nevada, and Arizona. We utilized 4 gymnasiums
at 3 sites, Damien HS, San Dimas HS, and Life Pacific College. Damien HS invested a significant amount of time and money to renovate the old main gym to serve as a host gym for the Silver Division
We were very fortunate that Mark Christopher Auto Center and agreed to be our title sponsor in 2016. The tournament drew over 20,000 spectators and was widely recognized as the premier high school Basketball tournament in California in its inaugural year. Mater Dei defeated Damien in the Championship game to win the Gold
Division in the first “Classic at Damien”. Vista San Diego and Hesperia were the winners of the Silver and Bronze Divisions respectfully. In its second and third year, ‘The Classic’ moved to 64 teams and 4 Divisions with the elite Division now being renamed the Platinum Division. We have been recognized as the premier high school tournament on the west coast. We have also added Bonita High School and Ramona Middle School as a 5 th and 6 th gym to host games. Moving into year 4 in 2019 The Classic grew again to 80 teams and 5 divisions. We were televised on Fox Sports, KDOC, and the National Federation High School Network. We had teams from 7 states, had the #1 team and player in the country, and had over 25,000 people attend the event, with 4 consecutive nights selling out. Unfortunately 2020 brought a cancellation due the pandemic. The Classic has now produced 4 NBA first round picks. Throughout, Mark Christopher Auto Center has continued to be our title sponsor, and James LItho have continued as great partners with us. In 2021 we added on again, having 88 teams, 6 divisions, and using seven sites.
n 2022 we added on again, having 112 teams,7 divisions from coming from 8 states. Now, in 2023 we are at 128 teams, with 8 divisions and 8 sites, with teams coming from Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Canada, and California from San Diego to Sacramento. We are now considered the Premier High School Basketball Tournament in the country.
The History of “The Classic” lives on…