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The Cumberland County Holiday Classic basketball tournament will undergo a dramatic change next December in hopes of preventing the 10 Cumberland County high schools from having to play each other too many times during the season.
Vernon Aldridge, student activities director for the Cumberland County Schools, unveiled the new format at Tuesday’s first monthly meeting of the 10 senior high school athletic directors at the county schools central office.
Under the new plan, the old format of a play-in round to qualify the lowest-seeded teams into the tournament field has been eliminated.
There will now be four separate tournaments, two each for boys and girls. The county schools will be split in half, five teams playing in each of the two separate tournaments for boys and girls. To complete the field, three outside teams for a total of 12 will be brought in.
For the first year, Aldridge has secured commitments from the following schools. The boys’ entries are Clinton, Middle Creek, Southern Lee, Lakewood, Forest Hills and Triton. Clinton, Southern Lee, Lakewood and Triton will also be in the girls’ tournaments, along with Scotland and Athens Drive.
Aldridge said ideas for an alternate format were discussed at last month’s seeding meeting for the Holiday Classic, with the coaches expressing the most interest in the format announced today.
“Coaches want to see different opponents,’’ Aldridge said, noting that since eight of the 10 senior high schools are in the Sandhills Atheltic Conference, it’s possible schools could meet each other as many as five times in a season.
The dates for next year’s tournaments are Dec. 20-22. Seventy-First and Terry Sanford will host the boys’ games and Pine Forest and E.E. Smith will host the girls.
The four separate championship games will be held the final day at Fayetteville State’s Capel Arena, with the four high school sites hosting the consolation bracket games.
Aldridge decided to keep the tournament prior to the Christmas holiday, even though history indicates gate receipts are higher when it’s held after Christmas.
“The difference in dollar amount of what we made before and after Christmas wasn’t all that great,’’ he said. “We thought it gave coaches, players and their families a chance to have a holiday break.’’

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