News-Star: Sports

Everybody’s last shot at the playoffs

Conference tournament week starts Monday in the high school basketball world with conference tournament champions all crowned by Friday. The conference tournaments are the last chance for a team to qualify for the state playoffs, which start on Feb. 23.

Any team that did not win the regular-season conference championship can take the No. 2 playoff seeding from that conference by winning the conference tournament. It’s a variation of the same thing college basketball conferences use as a last chance.

The Greater Neuse River 4A Conference will play all of its quarterfinal games (boys and girls) on Monday and all of its semifinal games on Tuesday (at one site for boys and one site for girls). Then the scene shifts to Gore Arena on the campus of Campbell University for the conference tournament championship games beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday night.

The Two Rivers 3A Conference follows the Monday, Wednesday, Friday format for girls and the Tuesday, Thursday, Friday format for boys games.

In the Eastern Plains 2A Conference, both the boys and girls will follow a Monday quarterfinal, Wednesday semifinal and Friday championships. The No. 3 seeds in boys and girls play will host doubleheaders on opening night of the tourney, same for the No. 1 teams on Wednesday. Championships are at the highest remaining boys seed on Friday night. All doubleheaders will have 6 and 7:30 p.m. starts.

The Carolina 1A Conference has girls games on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then boys games on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The first four days feature doubleheaders at the 1 and 2 seeds on Monday and Tuesday; the 1 seed (or highest remaining seed) hosts the semifinal doubleheaders.

Banks signs two-year deal with Ticats: Garner High School graduate Brandon Banks signed two-year contract to remain with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League through the 2017 season earlier this month.

Banks led the CFL in combined yards (1,968), punt return yards (618) and was third in kick return yards (701), earning a CFL All-Star nod.

“I just felt like it was the best situation for me and my family,” Banks said in a interview. “Just the passion the city has for the Tiger-Cats. It makes you want to go out and do the best for them.”

The 27-year-old, 5-foot-7 speedster, who played in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, set a CFL record for punt return yards in a playoff game with 226 in the Eastern Final of the CFL playoffs in 2014.

“Brandon is one of the premier playmakers in the league with the ability to change the game every time he touches the ball.” Ticats general manager and head coach Kent Austin told “We are extremely happy that he will be with our team for the next three years.”

Southeast duo to Carolinas Classic: Southeast Raleigh girls basketball players Amber Richardson and Jade Phillips will both play in the 2015 Carolinas Basketball Classic next month. The game, to be held on Saturday, March 28, at Socastee (S.C.) High School, features some of the top prep basketball talent in North Carolina taking on a South Carolina team.

Richardson is an N.C. State recruit; Phillips is headed to play at Syracuse.

Roberson to play football in Italy: LaMont Roberson, a football player at Clayton High School, has been selected to represent the United States on the American Football Worldwide Elite team in Italy in April. The AFW Elite team will play the U19 national team of Italy in Milan on April 4.

Roberson, a Greater Neuse River 4A all-Conference selection, led the Comets in sacks last season and rolled up 70 tackles.

In addition to playing on the 40-man team, Roberson will tour many of the historical landmarks of Italy in Rome, Vatican City, Sienna, Florence and Milan.

Trojan Challege set: South Johnston High School will host the Trojan Challenge 5K, a 5K obstacle course run, on April 25 at 9 a.m. on the school campus. The entry fee is $15 or $10 for students. Funds will benefit the South Johnston track and field programs.

To register, visit the South Johnston High office for a form or contact Megan Jones at

Clayton native is swimmer of the year: Nolan Hopkins of Clayton, a senior at the N.C. School of Science and Mathemetics, was named swimmer of the year in the Northern Carolina 2A Conference after winning the 200-yard freestyle, the butterfly and being a part of the winning 400 free relay team for NCSSM at the conference championships.

He finished third in the butterfly at the 1A/2A regional championships and qualified for the state championships in the 200 free. Nolan is the son of Buddy and Gina Hopkins of Clayton.