Louisburg High School has been hosting its top rivalry games just down the street at Louisburg College’s Taylor Center.
The Taylor Center is much larger than the school’s gym and gets close to capacity for games against Bunn and Franklinton over the last five years. But the game comes as a bit of a sacrifice in the sport where the term “home court advantage” originated.
“It gives our kids an opportunity to play in a next-level atmosphere,” said Louisburg girls coach Chris Baker. “It would be nice to be on our home court as opposed to a neutral site, but this allows more fans to be able to see the games and enjoy them. It is just a more comfortable situation.”
Franklinton swept Louisburg on Friday at the Taylor Center, winning 80-61 in the boys’ and 28-21 in the girls’ game.
“Unfortunately, we are the only school in (Franklin County) that has to play its two biggest home games at a neutral site,” Louisburg boys’ coach Michael Sheldon said.
Franklinton girls’ coach Lester Wilder, in his 41st season, wants to make sure his players appreciate the experience.
“I’m not sure some of our kids understand what nostalgia means,” he said. “When you get to come here and play in a college environment, that is something special. This is a college venue, and this is a rivalry with a lot of tradition.'”
Updated Invitational brackets
There’s been a tweak to John Wall Holiday Invitational tournament’s girls brackets.
There will be an eight-team bracket and a five-team round robin.
The first-round matchups in the bracket, beginning Dec. 26 at Cary Academy, are Green Hope vs. Ravenscroft, Heritage vs. Riverside, Cary vs. Northwood Temple (Fayetteville) and Millbrook vs. Clinton. Only the championship game is at Broughton’s Holiday Gymnasium.
The round-robin teams are Roxboro Community, Southern Durham, Trinity Christian (Fayetteville), Wakefield and Fayetteville Christian.
Harnett Central boys basketball coach and athletics director Will Gage recently topped the 300-win mark for his career when the Trojans defeated Union Pines 59-32 on Dec. 5.
Gage is in his 25th season coaching the Trojans.
Injuries pile up
Northwood’s girls basketball team enters the week undefeated, but it’s not the same team that entered the season.
In one hellacious 24-hour period last week, coach Cameron Vernon’s team has lost three starters due to season-ending injuries.
Junior Erika Nettles and seniors Jazanae Billings and Bryn Aydt, a Mars Hill recruit, all suffered ACL tears.
Vernon said via email “(I) have never heard of something like this.”
Huskies for charity
Fans coming to the Sanderson at Heritage basketball games on Tuesday will get free entry if they bring a toy worth at least $5. the toys will be donated to the Toys for Tots charity.
It seems more teams outside of Wake County are using Saturday as a chance to give their top basketball rivalries top billing. Northwood and Jordan-Matthews are trading Saturday games, as have Hillside and Southern Durham. Lee County and Southern Lee will do the same as conference opponents later this year and Orange and Cedar Ridge kicked off Big 8 Conference play on Saturday.
The big advantage to Saturday games are that parents are able to watch the JV and varsity games together. But it also adds a festive tailgating-like atmosphere because of it being earlierin the day.
Franklinton boys: Franklinton (5-1) is led by a balanced offense. Five scorers reached double-figures on Friday: Delton Davis and Semaj McCowan with 14 apiece. Chipping in with 10 points each were Branson Capps, Smith Gupton and Jaquan Owens.
“We’ve got a lot of experience coming back, and that really helps,” said Franklinton head coach Terrence Horne. “We have guys who have been with us for several years, so they know what to expect. We feel like if (opponents) try to stop one player, we have other options who can step up. When we have everyone going, we can be hard to guard.”
Heritage boys: The N&O No. 1 Huskies are still undefeated after holding off Leesville Road 66-61 on Friday. Post player Jayden Gardner took advantage inside with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
“I was proud of our team’s toughness on the road. We went down early and took a lead at the half,” coach Tilden Brill said. “That says a lot about our leadership.”
Heritage girls: The Huskies picked up a big Friday win, 48-37 against Leesville Road. Leesville cut the deficit to as low as eight in the fourth quarter, but was unable to stop the scoring outburst from Heritage’s Demi Washington, who finished with 18 points.
“I thought we started really well, we had some really good energy,” Heritage coach Pat Kennedy said. “When you win on the road in the Cap-8, it’s huge … top to bottom, it doesn’t get much better than here.”
Orange girls: The Panthers are off to an undefeated start of the year (5-0, 1-0 Big 8) after Saturday’s 42-34 win at rival Cedar Ridge. Orange’s defense has been key. The Panthers held Cedar Ridge scoreless for the final 4 minutes and 44 seconds.
Kaylen Campbell led Orange with 13 points, while Barnett and Lauren Coats finished with seven.
“Any time Orange and Cedar Ridge play, it’s a battle,” said coach B.J. Condron. “I think we managed the game well toward the end. Myers’ steal made it easier to close out the game. This is a long season and the competition is going to get better and better.”
Orange boys: The Panthers (4-3, 1-0 Big 8) is relying on UNC Asheville recruit Connor Crabtree, but there are some freshmen stepping up as well. Crabtree had 23 points in Saturday’s 60-59 win at Cedar Ridge, but freshmen Joey McMillin had 15 points and shot four-of-eight from 3-point range and Mitch Portman had five points and six assists.
“That’s been a focus of ours,” said Orange coach Greg Motley. “We feel we have good offensive guys who are offensive minded. So we actually have been working on defense in practice trying to gem them to play as hard on defense as they do on offense. I thought they did a little better tonight.”
Jeff Hamlin, Geoff Neville and Ian Pierno contributed,