After Nearly Three Decades, Diamond State Classic Hitting Nothing but Net

After almost three decades of success, the Diamond State Classic keeps getting stronger.

One of Delaware’s most treasured annual sports traditions, over its 28-year history the girls’ high school basketball tournament has showcased the best in local and national hoopster talent (attracting over 230 different teams) while also raising and donating $1.6 million to local charities.

Remarkably, for every one of those years, John Gretchen been at the helm, recruiting teams, lining up sponsors, working up the brackets – doing it all with the help of a great team, which includes co-founder Dan Monigle.

“It’s overwhelming. But any time I think about hanging up my hat, I think about the kids who love to play and the B+ Heroes who have become a part of the game,” said Gretchen, a longtime high school basketball official and fixture of the local hoops scene. “It’s what sets us apart,” he said.

The Diamond State Classic supports the Andrew McDonough Be Positive (B+) Foundation and Special Olympics Delaware, and B+ heroes – kids undergoing cancer treatment – are paired with each team for the duration of the tournament, and beyond.


Gretchen says most teams stay connected to their new B+ friends, and the out-of-state teams often invite their heroes to come visit to watch their team play in subsequent games and tournaments.

Held over four days at the end of December at St. Elizabeth’s High School, the invitational event held includes nine teams from Delaware and 11 from out of state. California, Ohio, New York and Maryland have all been represented at the tourney, a great opportunity for local players to play against the best national talent.

The Diamond State Classic sprung to life in 1991 when three coaches – Joe Pennell of Ursuline, George Chaloux of William Penn, and Steve Colella of Sanford – approached Dan Monigle and Gretchen, who was on the executive board of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials to see if they would organize a unique, four-team tournament, with the 4th team being from out of state.

That same year downstate officials launched Slam Dunk to the Beach for high school boys basketball teams. “The coaches of the girls teams quickly deduced it would be a lot of fun for their girls to do the same thing,” said Gretchen.

This year’s 2018 Diamond State Classic was held from Dec 27 to Dec 30th, and these nine Delaware schools participated:

• St. Elizabeth’s
• Conrad HS
• Ursuline Academy
• Padua Academy
• Wilmington Charter
• Howard School of Technology
• Wilmington Friends
• Delaware Military Academy
• Caesar Rodney

Congratulations to the sharpshooters at Padua Academy, who won their bracket at this year’s tournament! The 2019 champions in order of divisions are:

1 Redondo Union, CA

2 St. John Catholic Prep, MD

3 Padua Academy, DE

4 St. Joseph, NY

Twelve years ago, the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation became the primary beneficiary of the tournament. And for the first time this year, coaches wore colorful B+ Foundation t-shirts for one of their games in the tournament.

Founder and president Joe McDonough noted, “It was so great seeing the B+ Heroes sitting on the bench during the games, going out to dinner with the teams, and receiving gear from “their” teams.  It was also humbling to see a first this year – with coaches wearing B+ t-shirts to help increase awareness of The B+ Foundation and our fight against childhood cancers.”

New for 2019: The Diamond State Classic will unveil new scholarship program in conjunction with next year’s event. Delaware girl basketball players who are playing in the Diamond State Classic in 2019 will be eligible to apply for one of five $1,000 scholarships being offered. More information on the program will be announced in the spring of 2019. 

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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.