By RYAN HERMAN
There is one week left in high school basketball’s regular season, and for local teams there are still some spots left to gain in the standings.
If the weather holds off, that is.
Friday marks the final day of the regular season for most teams –– Saturday for Lincoln Charter –– and already a forecasted winter storm has forced schools to make changes to their schedules.
All four games scheduled for Tuesday in the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference have been moved to today in hopes of beating a storm that, according to forecasts through Sunday night, could last several days beginning on Tuesday. Locally, that means East Lincoln at Maiden, W. Lincoln at Bandys and West Caldwell at Lincolnton will be played today instead of Tuesday.
Three of the four North Piedmont 3A/4A Conference games scheduled for Tuesday, including North Lincoln’s home games with Statesville, have also been moved to today. The lone game not yet rescheduled in that league is Mooresville at South Iredell.
As of Sunday night, Lincoln Charter’s Southern Piedmont 1A Conference game at Pine Lake Prep was still scheduled for Tuesday, Eagles Athletic Director Daniel Schmitz said.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Three of the area’s six conference races (three boys, three girls) have already been decided.
Bandys’ girls, undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state by NCPreps.com, clinched the SD-7 title and its No. 1 playoff seed with its 71-35 win over Bunker Hill on Friday. Alexander Central’s girls did the same thing in the North Piedmont 3A/4A with their 64-49 win over South Iredell. The NP3A/4A’s boys champion has also been decided, with Lake Norman staking itself to a conference championship by defeating North Lincoln 84-26 –– the Knights’ fewest points this season.
That leaves the SD-7 boys, and both leagues in the Southern Piedmont 1A up for grabs.
Newton-Conover (16-4, 10-1) holds a one-game lead in the loss column over West Caldwell (14-6, 10-2) and a two-game lead over East Lincoln (18-3, 9-3) in the SD-7 boys’ race. All other teams have been mathematically eliminated.
The Red Devils have three games this week, including a make-up game with Maiden scheduled for Wednesday, then they wrap up the regular season at home against Bandys on Friday. Both of West Caldwell’s league losses have come to the Red Devils.
Lincoln Charter’s girls are two games up on Bessemer City with two games to play for each. A win against Pine Lake Prep or Community School of Davidson on Saturday will clinch the title for the Eagles (18-1, 10-0).
Cherryville’s boys (20-2, 10-1) and Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy’s boys (14-5, 9-1) are tied atop the SP1A after Community School of Davidson upset TJCA 80-76 on Friday. The Ironmen are off until traveling to TJCA on Friday. Thomas Jefferson travels to Bessemer City today looking to force a winner-take-all game on Friday.
PLAYOFF BERTHS: The top three teams from each single-classification conference get automatic bids into the state playoffs, and in a split-classification league each classification gets two automatic berths. As things stand, only East Lincoln’s boys and Lincoln Charter’s girls can get in under those rules.
If a team other than the regular season champion or the second-place finisher wins the conference tournament, that team becomes the league’s No. 2 playoff berth, and pushes the rest down. If the regular season champion or No. 2 team wins the league tournament, the top three teams from the regular season standings will represent the league as automatic qualifiers.
After the automatic qualifiers are seeded, teams will be selected at-large based on overall winning percentage to fill out the rest of the 64-team brackets –– 32 East and 32 West.
CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS: While the seeding has yet to be played out, the schedules for the three area conference tournaments have been set.
The SD-7, NP3A/4A and SP1A tournaments will each have a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule next week, with Monday’s opening-round action being held at the higher seed. The semifinals and finals of the SD-7 tournament will be held at Catawba Valley Community College. The semifinals and finals of the NP3A/4A tournament will be held at Alexander Central. And the semifinals and finals of the SP1A tournament will be held at Cherryville.
For the SD-7 and NP3A/4A, opening-round matchups will be seeds 8-1, 7-2, 6-3 and 5-4. For the SP1A, the top-seeded team earns an opening-round bye, while 7-2, 6-3 and 5-4 will fill out the semifinals.