Any time snow and ice hits this early in the month, high school athletic directors start feeling a little nervous about whether not we’ll have a conference tournament next month.
In two of the last three seasons, snow and ice have led to canceled conference tournaments. Schools ran out of available dates to finish the regular season.
Conference basketball tournaments are important to schools. They’re often the second-biggest moneymaker among athletic events, ranking only behind home football games. Many leagues set aside that money to buy the next year’s conference championship trophies and medals needed for all sorts.
But they’re also important for the players, who will remember the festive atmosphere as well as the heartbreak or jubilation that follows.
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The N.C. High School Athletic Association doesn’t count conference tournament wins and losses toward the postseason seeding because conference tournaments are considered – in all sports – part of the postseason.
But an old rule with a new tweak means they’re of greater importance than they’ve been in decades.
The longstanding rule is that the conference tournament title would assume a No. 2 seed, but there were more automatic bids then. This year, regular-season champs get the No. 1 seed, tournament champs get No. 2 (unless that team already had the No. 1 seed) and everyone else is a wild card.
A conference tournament title is a way to be set apart from the pack, and maybe secure at least a first-round home playoff game.
If we can avoid icy roads more than not in the next few weeks, I’d love to see how that plays out.
They said it
“Coming over here, I asked my players what our record was. ... The first one said that we were 8-3 coming in. I told him that was not the correct answer. The second one said that we were 0-0, and I said that was exactly right. We had six teams in the league starting play tonight at 0-0, and we had a chance to be one of just three teams that would be 1-0 after the games. And I am certainly glad to be 1-0 in the conference.” – Nash Central boys’ coach Renny Taylor after Thursday’s win over Rocky Mount.
“We want to put a banner on the other side of the gym.” – Rocky Mount girls’ coach Pam Gainey while pointing toward the school’s collection of state championship banners.
“I told them in the locker room – ‘The first thing I want to say is welcome back’ – because that was the team we were earlier in the year. The team we took to Lee County was not our team, and it was good to see them back tonight.” – Overhills boys’ coach Tony Lewis after his team beat Seventy-First following a 1-2 performance in a Christmas tournament.
Conference race analysis.
Cap-8 4A boys: An earlier forfeit by Millbrook is having a major impact, as Heritage (13-0, 5-0) has a two-game advantage on the Wildcats (10-4, 3-2) and Broughton (9-5, 3-2). Seven teams are .500 or better, with Wake Forest (7-7, 2-2), Sanderson (7-7, 2-2) and Leesville Road (9-5, 2-2) tied for fourth.
PAC-6 4A girls: As usual, Hillside (13-2, 4-0) is running away with the race, but the big surprise is that Person (9-6, 3-2) is sitting third after going years without a league win.
Riverside (8-7, 3-1) is third with Cardinal Gibbons (9-5, 3-2) fourth and Jordan (10-4, 3-3) fifth.
Southwest Wake 4A girls: Much like the boys’ race, it’s anyone’s game on the girls’ side, where five teams are within two games of each other.
Cary (9-5, 6-1) leads with its only loss coming to Green Hope (12-3, 5-2). Green Hope lost to Apex (9-5, 5-2) and Panther Creek (10-6, 5-3).
Holly Springs (11-3, 6-2) is alone in second after losses to Cary and Green Hope.
Two Rivers 3A girls: Every team in the league has a losing record, so the race for first – the only automatic playoff bid – is even more important.
Triton (5-11, 2-0) leads after wins over Cleveland (7-9, 1-1) and Corinth Holders (5-8, 1-1).
A quick look at schools’ boys and girls teams, together.
Heritage: The girls have one of the area’s best trios in Cydney Johnson, Demi Washington and Alcenia Purnell. Washington is a Ravenscroft transfer and the daughter of football coach and former NFL star Dewayne Washington. After winning at Millbrook on Thursday, the boys’ team is enjoying lots of firsts this season.
“We’ve never won here before and we just want to keep making history,” junior Jayden Gardner said. “We went to OT and finished.”
Hillside: The boys have won four straight – after starting the year 5-0 and only to lose five of the next six – and are back at 10-5 overall. The biggest opponent left for the Hillside girls, who have won four PAC-6 games by an average of 38.8 points, might be themselves.
“We have to fight complacency,” coach Ovester Grays said. “These kids read. They know who’s won and who’s lost. Sometimes we play based on what a team’s record is or on who somebody beat or didn’t beat. We have to get them to realize they have to play hard all the time. That’s the challenge we face.”
Jordan: Jordan’s girls have seven freshmen and sophomores getting substantial playing time as first-time varsity players, and they’re showing their youth, according to coach Ty Cox. Against teams from outside PAC-6, the Falcons have flourished, going 7-1, but they’ve been a .500 team against conference opponents.
“I think we played much better tonight than we did Tuesday,” Cox said. “We did everything we were supposed to but with seven freshmen and sophomores, we’ve still got the second half of the season. It’s the first time for seven of our 10 players. They’ve seen the difference in the intensity in the conference games the first time through and it should be different the next time.”
Millbrook: The Wildcats’ girls may have found a turning point in their season when they scored 19 points in the third quarter (after a 17-point first half) to exact revenge on Heritage and take over first. The boys will adjust to a new role in the Cap-8 after the loss.
“They better (play with a chip on their shoulders). This is the first time we haven’t been the hunted, which is fine either way, it’s nice to be the hunter and not the hunted,” Millbrook Scott McInnes said.
Top upcoming games
With many Tuesday games being postponed for later in the month, here are the top Friday games.
Friday: Heritage at Broughton; Leesville Road at Wakefield; Cary at Apex; Riverside at East Chapel Hill; Chapel Hill at Southern Durham (boys only); Middle Creek at Panther Creek (boys only); Cardinal Gibbons at Northern Durham; Northern Nash at Nash Central; Farmville Central at SouthWest Edgecombe; Hillside at Person; North Pitt at North Johnston; Rocky Mount at Fike.