The Overhills boys and Triton girls won Harnett County Tip-Off basketball titles in two thrilling games at Campbell University on Friday. The Jaguars boys beat Harnett Central 58-56 and the Hawks girls topped the Trojans 56-55.
Harnett Central boys basketball coach and athletics director Will Gage, the tournament’s organizer, is hopeful the games will continue next year, even as a new period of N.C. High School Athletic Association realignment will place three of the county’s schools will belong to the same conference.
Coaches want to avoid playing four times in the same year – once in the regular season, once in the Tip-Off tournament and potentially once in the conference tournament. That’s what happened with Triton and Western Harnett in 2012.
It’s a big reason why the Tip-Off tournament went away for a few years when all four county schools were in the same conference for a four-year period that ended in 2009-10. When the tournament returned six years ago, it had a new home at Campbell’s Gore Arena – an upgrade from previously being hosted by individual schools.
For that reason, there’s more incentive to keep the Tip-Off tournament going.
“Obviously, that’s a no-brainer. You’re obviously going to have more kids who don’t play college basketball than ones that do, so it gives them a chance to participate,” Gage said. “In something like that, it’s something they won’t experience again.”
Gage said he would look at possibly changing the format. Adding more teams would be a challenge, but there could be a random draw to see which school plays Overhills – which will be in a conference with all Cumberland County schools – in the first round.
“If you talk about bringing in more than four schools you’re talking about bringing in more than four for girls and boys and so you’re talking about many, many days,” Gage said. “It takes a lot of logistics just to get our county schools and to schedule it around Campbell.”
The Camels had a home game the week of Thanksgiving this year, which is when the tournament usually takes place, so the tournament started a week earlier than normal.
That left Triton, the lone county school with a football team in the first round of the playoffs, without some of its key players.
“It’s one of those things – I like it and I don’t like it. I love getting kids to play on that Campbell floor. This year, what I hate is I have a couple of seniors who don’t get a chance to play because they’re playing football tonight,” Triton boys baskeball coach T.J. Morrison said. “If it’s Thanksgiving or the week after it works out, but this year it didn’t.”
Before Overhills opened in the fall of 2004, the fourth team in the tournament changed a few times. Midway, Chatham Central, Pinecrest and South Johnston all helped round out the four-team field.
Overhills’ Joshua Richmond was the boys’ tournament MVP. He had 17 points in the championship game and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Zavian McLean, Triton’s Chrishaun Henry, Western Harnett’s Daun Hamm and Harnett Central’s Ian Jones and Jay Stewart.
Triton’s Anna Marie Tyndall was the girls’ tournament MVP. She had 16 points in the championship game and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Allure Smith, Overhill’s Kiana Jones, Western Harnett’s Ania Blackwell and Harnett Central’s Lakendra Carroll and Maliah Banks.
John Lucas contributed.