For nearly two decades the East Lincoln basketball programs have celebrated Christmas by hosting their own basketball tournament, featuring some of the best teams from the area.
This year, in the 19th annual East Lincoln Winter Jam, five local counties will be represented, as eight boys' and girls' teams vie for championships.
"We feel like this tournament has always been a first-class environment," said East Lincoln assistant coach Chip Ashley, who plays a key role in organizing the tournament. "Our goal is to play the best teams we can to help us get ready for conference play and the postseason."
While the East Lincoln boys' team has had a lot of success in the event, they have won it only once, in 2008, when all-state senior Keith Rendleman led the Mustangs to a title.
Meanwhile, the Mustang girls have also won their event only once, in 1994.
This year another strong field will battle for the title with both defending champions - the Forestview boys and Myers Park girls - back in the tournament.
The Mustangs and coach Neil Hodges are off to their usual strong start this season at 5-2, despite one of the youngest rosters in recent memory.
East Lincoln, which has only two seniors, is led by junior co-captains Patrick Rendleman and Antwaine McLean.
Rendleman is the Mustangs top option down low, while McLean is an offensive sparkplug at point guard.
Sophomores Garrett Young and Tyler Brock are becoming more consistent offensive threats, along with senior Parker Hills. If Brock, Young and Hills can provide more offense, this team could make a run in the tournament.
The Mustangs use this tournament as a springboard for the rest of their season and this year is no different, as they are again the only 2A team in the event.
A solid win or two would go a long way in helping a team that is still a work in progress; anything else would be a bonus.
East Lincoln regularly seeks a strong field for its tournament, and this year could be one of the best.
Defending champion Forestview appears to be loaded, with point guard Demetrius Adams and forward Chris Johnson leading the way.
But a record four teams from Mecklenburg County - Garinger, Independence, Myers Park and Rocky River - should make things interesting and competitive.
East Gaston, last year's runner-up, and Northwest Cabarrus round out a field that should provide a close game in nearly every contest.
Like their male counterpart, the East Lincoln girls' team is extremely young but has started strong at 5-2. The Mustangs and coach Franklin Lowery are still trying to find themselves without all-everything forward Lindsy Wright, now at Wake Forest.
Lowery hopes senior forward Kyndal Davis and guard Courtney Ashley, both fourth-year varsity players, can step their games up even further, as the two seniors look to lead the team against a solid field and build momentum toward a fourth straight Southern Piedmont Conference title.
The girls' side of the East Lincoln tournament is also loaded.
Defending champion Myers Park will be among the favorites, but it won't be easy.
Jay M. Robinson has one of the best players in the tournament in Kelsee Cheek, who is committed to Chattanooga and is one of the top scorers in the state at 22 points per game.
Hickory Ridge and Northwest Cabarrus also have solid rosters.
East Gaston, North Mecklenburg and Mooresville round out a field that should be wide open.