Many conference championships will be settled this week, the last one in the regular season for N.C. High School Athletic Association basketball teams, and there’s more on the line than there used to be.
Only conference champions have automatic bids into the 64-team NCHSAA brackets. No matter the overall record, regular-season champs get seeded higher than everyone else, including conference tournament champs. Conference tournament champions get higher seeds than non-champions, but lower than regular-season champs.
All other teams make the postseason based on their overall winning percentage, much like NFL wild-cards. A record of .500 or higher is traditionally good enough to sneak into the playoffs.
Here’s a look at a number of area conference championship races as the last week begins.
Cap-8 4A: Millbrook (20-2, 12-0) clinched the girls’ title by defeating Heritage (18-3, 10-2) on Friday.
The Heritage boys (22-0, 12-0) have locked up the outright title, the program’s first, with a four-game lead on Leesville Road (15-7, 8-4).
Greater Neuse 4A: Southeast Raleigh (22-0, 12-0) has the girls’ title after a season sweep of Knightdale (16-5, 10-2).
The Garner boys (19-2, 11-0) have also clinched, with Rolesville (12-9, 9-3) 2.5 games back.
PAC-6 4A: Hillside (19-3, 10-0) has already clinched the girls’ championship with a three-game lead over Jordan (16-5, 8-3) and East Chapel Hill’s boys (17-4, 9-0) have done the same with three-game leads over Northern Durham (13-6, 7-3) and Cardinal Gibbons (17-5, 7-3).
Southwest Wake 4A: The Green Hope girls (19-3, 12-2) control their own destiny with a half-game lead over Cary (14-7, 11-3) and Apex (15-6, 11-3) entering the week. Green Hope, which swept Cary but split with Apex, faces eighth-place Middle Creek on Tuesday and sixth-place Athens Drive on Friday.
The Apex boys (13-8, 11-3) have a head-to-head sweep of Cary (14-7, 11-3) should the two end up tied for first. Green Hope (17-5, 10-4) has an outside shot.
Eastern Carolina 3A/4A: The South Central girls (12-8, 10-1) are a half-game up on J.H. Rose (10-11, 9-1) and appear heading for co-conference titles unless there’s an upset this week.
The South Central boys (20-1, 11-0) have already locked up the title.
Big 8 3A: After falling on Friday, the Orange girls (21-1, 10-1) need one more win to clinch at least a share of the conference title with Northwood (18-5, 9-2). The Chargers upset the Panthers 63-60 on Friday.
The Orange boys (18-5, 10-1) can do the same. Both teams play J.F. Webb on Tuesday.
Big East 3A: Rocky Mount’s girls (16-2, 8-0) have already locked up the title as have the Northern Nash boys (20-2, 8-0).
Cape Fear Valley 3A: With a win, the Union Pines girls (20-2, 9-1) will seal an outright conference title.
The Southern Lee boys (14-6, 8-1) play three times this week and have to win at least one to earn a share of the crown, twice to win outright.
Two Rivers 3A: It appears the Cleveland (13-9, 7-1) and Triton girls (12-10, 7-1) are heading for a co-title.
Triton’s boys (13-9, 8-0) can clinch first with a win or Western Harnett (10-9, 5-2) loss, whichever comes first. They play head-to-head at Western on Friday.
Eastern Plains 2A: The Farmville Central girls (15-3, 6-2) need some help to catch SouthWest Edgecombe (15-3, 7-1) and force a tie for first that would have to be broken by the conference tournament.
The Farmville Central boys (13-6, 7-1) need to defeat Beddingfield (13-8, 6-2) on Tuesday to wrap up the title; otherwise Beddingfield will have a season sweep and head-to-head tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed.
Northern Carolina 2A: Friday’s showdown with Roanoke Rapids (13-6, 10-1) at Warren County (18-3, 10-2) will settle the girls’ title, and the same goes for when Franklinton’s boys (17-3, 11-1) visit South Granville (18-4, 11-1).
The Roanoke Rapids girls and Franklinton boys won the first head-to-head meetings with their challengers.
Carolina 1A: The Princeton girls (15-4, 10-1) have a half-game lead on Neuse Charter (18-5, 10-2) and control their own destiny.
The Spring Creek boys (16-5, 11-1) have a one-game lead on James Kenan and can clinch the title with a season sweep of the Tigers on Tuesday.
North Central Athletic 1A: The NCAC begins its conference tournament this weekend to ensure all 10 team make the field. Roxboro Community (20-3, 15-0) has all but locked up the girls’ title after a strong push from Raleigh Charter (16-4, 14-2).
The boys’ crown comes down to Tuesday’s game when Kestrel Heights (22-0, 16-0) pays a return visit to Voyager Academy (20-6, 15-1).
Tar-Roanoke 1A: The Louisburg girls (12-6, 7-2) need some help to catch Weldon (12-2, 10-0). The two collide on Friday.
The Oxford Prep boys (19-6, 7-4) won’t catch Southeast Halifax (16-3, 10-0).
Other: In the Southeastern 4A, the Pinecrest girls (12-7, 5-2) appear unlikely to catch Lumberton (19-1, 7-0), but the boys (19-2, 6-1) have a Friday showdown at Hoke County (16-6, 7-1), likely for the outright title.
The Overhills boys (15-4, 7-2) lost twice last week and now need to win out to preserve a shot at a co-conference title in the Mid-South 4A with Fayetteville’s Seventy-First (18-3, 8-2).
In the Central Tar Heel 1A, Chatham Central (15-4, 7-2) and North Moore girls (11-6, 7-2) have a shot at catching South Davidson (18-2, 8-1) this week. Both teams play the Wildcats this week and North Moore has a head-to-head win already.
Rocky Mount Prep’s boys (18-3, 8-1) have the inside edge on the Two Rivers 1A.
The Starting 5
Five standouts from the past week.
Kristian Eanes, Northwood: Scored 20 points to help hand Orange its first loss on Friday, 63-60.
Robin Gallagher, Athens Drive: Scored 20 in a 51-49 win over Cary on Tuesday.
Sis Norman, Millbrook: Scored 18 and had eight rebounds in a 54-46 win at Heritage on Friday.
Jaylin Powell, Rolesville: Scored 24 in a 54-45 win over Clayton on Thursday.
Nia Washington, Green Hope: Scored 22 in a 69-68 win over Holly Springs on Wednesday.
Connor Crabtree, Orange: Scored 29 in a 73-59 win over Northwood on Friday.
Jayden Gardner, Heritage: Scored 27 and pulled in 19 rebounds in a 77-69 win Friday over Millbrook.
Alex Reed, Garner: Scored 22 points as Garner held off Knightdale 75-70 on Friday.
Coby White, Greenfield: UNC recruit had a triple-double (29 points 12 assists, 10 rebounds) in a 91-76 win Saturday over Cape Fear Christian.
Matt Yager, Trinity Academy Raleigh: Had 37 points in Friday’s 96-42 win over Burlington Christian.