Tis the season for holiday basketball tournaments, and there’s a plethora of action on the schedule locally.
As always, the Mustangs will host the East Lincoln Winter Jam, which features eight teams in the both the men’s and women’s brackets, and includes a loaded field this year. The action gets started Friday, and there’s a full day of hoops on the docket.
The Lady Mustangs will play in the co-main event in the first round Friday night, and it will take a herculean effort to knock off the second-seeded Lady Patriots of Independence. Independence enters the weekend with an 8-1 overall record this season, having won seven consecutive games after an early loss to South Mecklenburg.
Independence is led by junior Braylyn Milton, who averages 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Senior Trinity Thompson chips in with nearly 14 points per game, and Ayanna Anderson controls the glass inside for the Lady Patriots, averaging more than 12 rebounds per game.
The Lady Mustangs are playing well entering the tournament, having won three games in a row after losing their first three of the season. Senior guard Brianna Tadlock will have to step up for East Lincoln to pull the upset, and she’s more than capable after scoring 38 points in a victory last week.
The Olympic Lady Trojans are the top seed in the women’s bracket, entering at 7-2 overall this season. Olympic is stout defensively, holding each of their opponents under 40 points since a 52-48 win over Myers Park to open the season.
East Lincoln’s men’s team will close out the opening round Friday night with a game against the Garinger Wildcats. The Mustangs should handle their business against a winless Garinger squad, which would set up a second-round matchup against either Jay M. Robinson or Cuthbertson on Saturday.
The Hough Huskies are the top seed in the men’s bracket, boasting a 9-1 overall record through 10 games this season. Hough’s lone loss came on the road at Cox Mill, and the Huskies have won five consecutive games by double figures.
Hough is led by senior Beau Maye, whose brother Luke starred for the North Carolina Tar Heels in college. Maye averages nearly 14 points and 7 rebounds, but it’s Hough’s depth that’s most impressive. Two other Huskies -- senior Nathan Chambers and junior Cal Riehl -- average more than 10 points per game.
Should both teams advance through their side of the bracket unscathed, East Lincoln would play Hough in Monday night’s championship game.
The other three county schools will compete in the Peoples Bank Holiday Clash being played at Bandys this year.
North Lincoln’s men’s team will look to defend it’s title, which the Knights won on their home court a year ago with a victory over Lincolnton.
The Knights, winners of three straight, will open the tournament with winless East Gaston Thursday afternoon. Should they win that game, the Knights will player the winner of Forestview and Lincolnton in the second round.
The Wolves enter the tournament at 3-4 overall this season, and Lincolnton has struggled away from home, losing all three of their games on the road thus far. Forestview boasts a 7-4 record entering Thursday’s contest with Lincolnton.
The West Lincoln men, who are still in search of their first win this season, will play in the final game of the opening round Thursday night against Highland Tech. The Rams have also struggled this season to the tune of a 2-6 record.
While it’s the North Lincoln men who enter as defending champions, the Lady Knights are a perfect 6-0 on the season thus far. Like the men, the Lady Knights will open the tournament with a game against East Gaston, which enters with a 5-5 record.
The Lady Wolves of Lincolnton are on the same side of the bracket as North Lincoln. Lincolnton will play for its first win of the season against Forestview on Thursday.
The West Lincoln Lady Rebels are on the opposite side of the bracket compared to their county rivals, and they’ll open play Thursday night against winless Highland Tech. The Lady Rebels would play the winner of Bandys and Stuart Cramer Friday with a win on Thursday.
The other local tournament will be played at Lincoln Charter, where the Lady Eagles host their annual holiday tournament.
The Lady Eagles, who enter the tournament at 7-2 overall this season, will play Berry Academy in the first round Friday night.