by Chris Hunt
Before heading out of town for the Bank of Oak Ridge Holiday Classic in Greensboro Dec. 22-23, SouthLake Christian hosted a four-team event in its home gym. The Eagles (9-2, 1-1 in the Metrolina Athletic Conference) won the eighth-annual SouthLake Christian Basketball Classic on Dec. 18 after defeating Statesville Christian, 63-49, and North Raleigh Christian, 71-40.
SouthLake center Brianne Mack dominated the Classic with 17 points in the first round and 21 points in the second, earning Most Valuable Player honors. Her teammate, sharpshooter Kourtney Hailey, made the All-Tournament team, scoring 13 points against Statesville Christian and 19 in the finals.
The Eagles, however, can’t expect to cruise to another holiday tournament championship. Harsh competition awaits in the Bank of Oak Ridge Holiday Classic, where SouthLake will face prep schools such as Oak Ridge Military and Charlottesville, Virginia’s Miller School. The Eagles could also face MAC rival Concord First Assembly, which sits in first place after defeating SouthLake, 69-60, in a Dec. 7 game the Eagles led by 19 points in the second half.
Even so, Eagles coach Terry Batts is excited about heading out of town. He’s anxious to see how his team competes in unfamiliar territory. Another shot against First Assembly would also be interesting. Batts hopes the holidays will be a nice test against unfamiliar teams, a situation the Eagles could face if they make the N.C. Independent School Athletic Association 2A playoffs.
“We need to get out of Charlotte and play in an uncomfortable environment,” said Batts. “It’s also important because, without a tournament, we would go two weeks without playing a game. Maybe next year we’ll try to play in the Bojangles’ Shootout, but this year we will get used to playing different teams where we have to make adjustments during the game.”
Hopewell atop I-MECK 4A
Hopewell sent a message across the I-MECK 4A conference on Dec. 16 with a convincing 63-25 blowout of last year’s league tournament finalist, Lake Norman, a team expected to push the Titans for the title this season.
The Titans’ defense smothered the Wildcats, allowing just two points in the third quarter. Hopewell’s leading scorer, Hannah Early, paced her team with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Bryana Curry – sister of former Titans boys star Brandyn Curry – scored 13 points. She also has two brothers, Tyrone and Daron, playing for the Hopewell varsity squad.
But Hopewell coach Gary Richmond might be prouder of a victory two days earlier against a lesser-known opponent.
On Dec. 14, Hopewell held off first-year program Hough, 29-26. Hough starts four freshmen and a sophomore, but the Huskies grew up playing together on the AAU teams. Richmond said the Huskies are young, but play very well together. He also made it clear that the young Hough squad was his team’s toughest opponent so far this season.
“The Huskies were very patient in their sets,” said Richmond. “They had possessions that lasted over two minutes. They got the game at the pace they wanted. We would have liked to go faster, but their possessions were so long. They earned everything they got, and they made us earn it too. That’s going to be a good little team, and I will hate to see them next year because they will all be back.”
The Titans take their undefeated record (8-0, 3-0) into the Bojangles’ Shootout, which will be held in Bojangles’ Coliseum Tuesday, Dec 28, through Thursday, Dec. 30. There, Hopewell, the No. 2 team in the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group Super 10 rankings could face teams such as Concord, Berry, Belmont South Pointe, Gastonia Forestview and Victory Christian. I-MECK 4A competitors Mallard Creek and Vance will compete.