The annual Cumberland County Holiday Classic basketball tournament, which changes formats frequently, rolls out another new look for the 45th edition of this year’s tournament Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 20-22.
The 2018 edition will feature four separate tournaments at four local high school gyms, bringing the four championship games for each event to Fayetteville State University’s Capel Arena on the final day.
All 10 Cumberland County schools will be competing, both boys and girls, along with an assortment of teams from outside the county to complete the field.
The new format pays tribute to four past Cumberland County coaching greats as the four brackets are named for them.
The two boys brackets honor former Terry Sanford coach Len Maness and former E.E. Smith coach Ike Walker Sr.
The two girls’ brackets are named for Westover’s Gene Arrington and Pine Forest’s Tom Jackson.
The Maness bracket games will be played at Terry Sanford, the Walker bracket at Seventy-First, the Jackson bracket at Douglas Byrd and the Arrington bracket at E.E. Smith.
The four championship games in each bracket will be held at FSU’s Capel Arena Saturday, Dec. 22, with games at 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m.
Ike Walker Sr. Bracket
David Simmons’ Seventy-First team is still getting adjusted since a number of key players arrived to the court late because of the Seventy-First football team’s deep run in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association football playoffs.
Simmons feels his team has more offensive continuity than it did last season. He’s been pleased so far with the play of senior Brion McLaurin.
Some of the Falcon role players, including Demauriea Nickelson and Quiones Clayton, have also stepped up.
The Falcons open the tournament against old Cumberland County rival South View.
“Westover is on our side and they are off to a good start,’’ he said of the rest of the Walker bracket. Len Maness Bracket
Like Seventy-First’s Simmons, Terry Sanford coach Darren Corbett’s concern is still putting his team together after the late arrival of players from the Terry Sanford football team.
Two of the key additions from football are post player Ezemdi Udoh and guard Dante Bowlding.
The team leaders so far have been forward Yates Johnson and guard Jay Hickman, Corbett said. “Jay has been able to give us somebody who can break down defense off the dribble and spot up and knock down the open jump shot,’’ Corbett said. “Yates just brings his energy every night, and I think our other kids feed off of that.’’
Terry Sanford opens the tournament on its home court against Lakewood, and that’s the only team Corbett is thinking about.
“We’re trying to stay focused on what we have going on right now,’’ he said.
Tom Jackson bracket
Pine Forest was supposed to host the Tom Jackson Bracket, but because Trojan athletic director Jason Norton is recovering from an illness, it was moved to Douglas Byrd.
In spite of that, Pine Forest girls’ coach David May is looking forward to the new format and to seeing some different teams, including 2-A power Clinton in the opener.
Pine Forest is still waiting to get all the pieces of this year’s team in place. Sisters Kendal and Ciara Moore, who transferred from Northwood Temple Academy, haven’t taken the court together yet as Ciara is still recovering from injury and hoping to be back in January.
“Kendal is playing lights out and is a leader on and off the court,’’ May said.
Twins Gredesha and Claresha Pruitt are back in play for Pine Forest and have meshed well with Moore in May’s guardoriented offense.
May expects a tough test from Clinton and said there are plenty of other good teams in the Trojans’ bracket. Gene Arrington bracket
The only concern veteran Smith coach Dee Hardy has about the new tournament is the field wasn’t seeded, so teams were just paired randomly.
Smith entered the season rated as one of the top girls teams to beat with the return of standout Wake Forest commit Alex Scruggs.
Hardy feels Scruggs has been complemented well so far this season by some of her younger players. Sophomore Jordan Everett is coming off an ACL tear that sidelined her last year.
Another young player who has performed well so far is sophomore swing player Keonna Bryant.
Hardy is expecting a good test from first-round opponent Scotland, which she said has good athletes.
Tickets to the tournament can be purchased at https://gofan.co/app/school/NC67770.
All tickets sold online for $27 are good for all three days of the tournament and can be used at multiple games and sites.
One-day tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at each game site. They are only good for the sit where purchased.