The prep football playoffs get into fever mode this week with second-round games coming on Friday night, while the winter high school sports season gets rolling across the area. Teams can play for the first time on Monday. The winter season concludes on March 12 with the playing of the state championship games.
The big match up this week is a boys basketball clash between Garner and Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Trojans are coming off of a 4A state championship last season, while the Rams came within an overtime period of reaching the 3A regionals.
Both teams lost their unquestioned leaders (Julius Barnes and Bobby Stenborg, respectively), but have a lot of pieces back in place for this season. Tip off should be sometime just before 8 p.m., after the two schools’ girls teams open their seasons.
Cleveland also hosts West Johnston and Clayton in a three-team dual match on Tuesday night.
Cleveland follows that up with a basketball trip to Clayton for the Comets’ home opener on Wednesday. Other in-county clashes set for this week include South Johnston-Clayton on Thursday and Friday’s West-Cleveland and Clayton-Smithfield-Selma meetings.
A different trek for the basketball playoffs: The NCHSAA basketball playoffs switch to a four-round at home sites and regional championships at neutral sites format for the 2015-16 playoffs.
The east regionals, have been played in Fayetteville in recent years, but the Association has made no announcement about the location of the 2016 event. Fayetteville and Campbell University are two of the locations known to be seeking the event, set for Saturday, March 5.
The playoffs begin Tuesday, Feb. 23. Conference tournaments will be played the week of Feb. 15-19. The state finals are March 12.
Holiday tournaments: Princeton will host a pre-Christmas basketball tournament in its new gymnasium and Cleveland will hold the Cleveland Classic Dec. 28-30.
The field will include the boys and girls teams from Clayton, Southern Nash, West Johnston, Nash Central, Fuquay-Varina and the host Rams. Also in the girls field will be Garner and Kinston; the boys field includes Sanderson and Durham Hillside.
Games begin at 10 a.m. daily. The championship games are at 7 and 8:30 on Wednesday, Dec. 30.
Garner’s boys and Southeast Raleigh’s girls are in the field for the annual Holiday Invitational tournament in Raleigh, set for Dec. 26-30.
Common sites for Two Rivers 3A events: The Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center will host every Two Rivers 3A Conference meet this season with the first one set for Dec. 3. Regional championships are Feb. 5-6 and the state finals are Feb. 12-13.
Every Two Rivers 3A Conference winter track and field meet will be held at South Johnston this season. The first one comes on Dec. 5.
The indoor state track and field championships are also Feb. 12-13.
GNRC Wrestling Duals: The Greater Neuse River 4A Conference will go to a four teams at one site format for its dual matches this season. Teams will wrestle two opponents, one at 5 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. at a common site with two other teams.
The format should help teams avoid a pile up of makeup matches if the end of the season gets jumbled by snow or ice events and helps avoid the January exam crunch. The first round of matches will be Dec. 2. The only January scheduled match is for Jan. 20 and those are single matches at one quad site.
More grappling dates to remember: The area Saturday wrestling tournament schedule is highlighted by the Pruitt/Rainey Memorial at Cleveland on Jan. 9 and the Jolly Roger Invitational at Corinth Holders on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Conference individual championship tourneys are set for Jan. 30 across the area. The dual team playoffs start Feb. 2. And the individual regionals will be Feb. 12-13 and the state championships are from Feb. 18-20.