↑Area Tournament Champions: North Meck (Arby’s Classic); Northside Christian (Myers Park Holiday); Independence (Phenom Palmetto Winter Classic); South Meck (Craze Sports); Mallard Creek (East Lincoln Winter Jam); Hickory Grove (WNC Holiday)
↑Independence rolling: The Patriots, champions of the Palmetto Winter Classic, have won three straight games by an average of 27.3 points. And they are playing playoff-quality teams.
↑Myers Park: Mustangs have won five of six games after beating Charlotte Country Day in the third place game of Myers Park’s holiday tournament. Myers Park won 11 games total last season.
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↑M.J. Armstrong, Gaston Day: Scored his 1,000th career point Thursday.
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Saturday’s #BIG5 Performers
Jairus Hamilton, Qon Murphy, Concord Cannon: Hamilton shot 12-for-16 and had 27 points, six rebounds, two assists in a 68-64 double-overtime loss to Raleigh Word of God in a fifth place game at the John Wall Holiday Invitational in Raleigh. Murphy shot 6-for-15 and had 20 points, a game-high 11 rebounds and six assists. Both players made the all-tournament team.
Nate Hinton, Gaston Day: Had 27 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, one block and a steal in an 87-80 loss to Norcoss (GA) in the championship game of the Farm Bureau Insurance Classic in South Carolina. Demi Adelekun had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Gaston Day (13-2).
Raja Milton, Independence: 22 points, five rebounds, two assists in an 81-46 win over Fayetteville Village Christian in the championship game of the Phenom Hoops tournament.
Tristan Maxwell, North Meck: sophomore had 21 points, five assists in the Arby’s Classic championship win and was named tournament MVP. Maxwell’s three-point shot at the end of the third quarter gave the Vikings a 43-40 lead they wouldn’t give up in a win over Columbus (MS).
Wendell Moore, Concord Cox Mill: 6-6 junior had 24 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in a 64-63 loss to national power DeMatha (MD) Catholic in the Beach Ball Classic third place game. Moore was named “Most Outstanding player” at the event.
By The Numbers
65-60: Mallard Creek beat homestanding East Lincoln 65-60 in a rematch of the 2016 East Lincoln Winter Jam finale. After an 0-9 start, the Mavericks have now won four straight games.
3-4: South Meck had lost three of four games before starting play in the Craze Sports Christmas Tournament, but the Sabres won three straight games at the event and beat SoMeck rival Harding 61-48 in the final. Harding had won 10 games in a row. South got 17 points from Donte Wiggins and 13 from Chris White. Harding got 23 points from Quinten Thomas. The teams will play again Friday in a regular-season conference game.
20-12: Davidson Day sophomore CJ Huntley averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds at the East Lincoln Winter Jam and was named all-tournament. He had a game-high 20 in Saturday’s 68-54 win over Gastonia Forestview in the fifth-place game.
7: Rebounds for West Charlotte 6-foot junior guard Cartier Jernigan, who sparked a 48-40 win over Myrtle Beach Christian Academy at the Phenom Hoops Palmetto Winter Classic. Jernigan had 18 points and four assists. Teammate Pat Williams had seven points, three rebounds and two assists.
5.4: Hickory Grove freshman AJ Smith scored his team’s final four points in the last 5.4 seconds of a 67-66 win over Calvary Day in the WNC Holiday championship Saturday. He finished with 17 points. Teammate Austin Hadden had 30 for Hickory Grove (9-6).
▪ It’s time for a shot clock in North Carolina. Watch the video above. I see this all the time. Teams holding the ball (particularly in girls’ games). And how many times have you watched a competitive game come down to the final minutes when, Team A who has the lead, decides to just try to hold the ball? That means Team B can do a lot of chasing, or fouling. Or both. It’s not fun to watch. And if a team has a really good ball handling or free throw shooting guard, a 3-point game in the final couple of minutes can basically end in a series of dribbling in circles, creating space and waiting, waiting......waiting, for the other team to foul.
A 35-second shot clock would change the dynamic immediately -- and for the better -- in North Carolina. Beginning in 2019-20, Wisconsin will add a 35-second shot, joining California, Massacussetts, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington as states whose high schools are using the clock.
Wisconsin is also going to two 18-minute halves instead of four eight-minute quarters (yes, please, in North Carolina). A Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association board member was asked why his state was adopting the change. Eric Coleman told USA Today: "Flow of the game. I think along with how going to halves has changed the way coaches have coached, the shot clock will change the way people coach, the way the game is approached, the way the game is played."
Couldn’t have said it better.
▪ Sweet 16 No. 1 North Mecklenburg, which won the Arby’s Classic Saturday, only has one seniors in its starting lineup, 6-5 forward Yancey Hairston. There are eight underclassmen on the roster. Coach Duane Lewis -- always overlooked when people talk about the state’s elite coaches -- could be building a team that is national level good. North Meck won a good Arby’s Classic championship Saturday and the Vikings did so without one of their best players. Senior point guard Vaud Worthy is out with a knee injury. I just wonder how good these current Vikings would be with Worthy -- one of the best five senior point guards in North Carolina -- running with them.
Next year, with most of its stars returning a year older and a year better, I just wonder how good these Vikings will be, period.
▪ Another 4A public team that seems to be hitting its stride is Independence. The Patriots certainly caught the eye of N.C. recruiting analyst Rick Lewis of Phenom Hoops, who raved about the Patriots when we talked Saturday night after Lewis’ Palmetto Classic tournament in South Carolina. Senior guard Jamarius Burton has come back with a vengeance from the knee surgery which robbed him of his senior year, but Independence has other must-watch stars. Guys like AJ McKee and Matt Smith are also having terrific seasons. And McKee and Smith are juniors. They’ll be back next year to try to be a foil for North Meck.
▪ Nice to see area public school teams getting strong again. For years now, private school basketball has had a pretty significant advantage, in at least the western half of the state, and probably still does right now. But I think when the 2018 class graduates, the race for supremacy evens out quite a bit. Right now, if you asked me who are the 10 best teams in the state, I’d offer this ranking, and I’m not going to worry much about record since some teams I’ll list have played some pretty rigorous schedules against national teams that would probably hand losses to many N.C. teams. So here goes:
1. High Point Wesleyan, 3A Independent
2. North Mecklenburg, 4A public
3. Greensboro Day, 3A Independent
4. Providence Day, 3A Independent
5. Concord Cox Mill, 3A public
6. Raleigh Leesville Road, 4A public
7. Gaston Day, 2A Independent
8. Carmel Christian, 2A Independent
9. Independence, 4A public
10. (tie) Butler 4A public/Garner, 4A public
Move of the Night
Going to go to college ball this time. Former Providence Day star (and two-time Charlotte Observer player of the year) Grant Williams (above, in his senior year in high school) took off after a steal for Tennessee Saturday and put on a move that should land him on SportsCenter’s top 10. Watch.
Move of the Night, Part Deux
In Tennessee, North Meck superstar Jae’Lyn Withers helped his team win a holiday championship with a great catch and then a great fadeaway three to beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter.
Saturday’s Sweet 16 Spotlight: No. 1 North Meck wins at Arby’s
No. 1 North Mecklenburg 62, Columbus (MS) 53: North Meck became the first team in 17 years to win a second Arby’s Classic championship in Tennessee. The Vikings, who won in 2014, join Louisville Male, which won in 1986 and 2000.
Withers, a 6-9 junior forward, had 20 points, five rebounds, two assists, three blocks and two steals. He made four 3-point shots and was named all-tournament along with forward Chris Ford, who finished with eight points, nine rebounds and four assists.
DeMatha (MD) Catholic 64, No. 3 Concord Cox Mill 63: DeMatha (10-1) out-rebounded Cox Mill 37-22 in the third place game at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach. But Cox Mill forced 18 turnovers and nearly pulled off the upset. UNC recruit Rechon Black, named to the all-tournament team, had 15 points, four steals, three assists for Cox Mill. Justin Moore had 21 for DeMatha and Hunter Dickinson had 18.
No. 4 Independence 81, Fayetteville Village Christian 46: Independence (12-1) won its third straight game since a 61-55 loss to Carmel Christian at a pre-Christmas tournament at Charlotte Country Day. The Patriots took a 19-10 lead in the first quarter and cruised home from there. Matt Smith had 14 rebounds and seven points for the Patriots.
Christian Bros. (TN) 48, No. 8 Charlotte Catholic 46: The Cougars lost in the third place game at the St. Pius X Christmas Classic, but not before outscoring Christian Brothers 19-6 in the fourth quarter, trying to stage a big rally. Christian Brothers is the No. 2 ranked 2A team in Tennessee. On Friday, Catholic lost on a buzzer beater to St. Pius, the No. 1 ranked 4A team in Georgia. On Saturday, Luke Harkins led Catholic with 17 points.
Hough 58, Weddington 42: Hough outscored Weddington 40-21 in the second half of the fifth-place game at the Myers Park Holiday tournament. Myles Washington and Drake Maye had 11 for the Huskies. Drake Maye made 3-of-4 3-point attempts. Beau Maye had a game-high 12 points plus seven rebounds and three assists.
Myers Park 46, Country Day 44: The Mustangs won third place at their Christmas Tournament in a nail-biter. Myers Park led 10-5 after the first quarter, but Country Day closed to 32-31 to start the fourth. John Ingram had 11 for Myers Park. Duwe Farris and Jake Rutledge had 10 each. DeAngelo Epps had 17 for Country Day (10-7), which has lost four of its last five games.
The Miller School 65, United Faith 52: Unsigned 6-8 senior K.C. Hankton had 18 points, three rebounds and two assists for United Faith. UNC-Wilmington signee Jaylen Sims added 13.
Northside Christian 63, Charlotte Latin 54: 6-foot-7 sophomore Jaden Seymour had 21 points and 6-4 senior Jon Hicklin had 15 as Northside (8-5) won the Myers Park Holiday Classic Saturday. Latin led 14-10 after the first quarter and 30-27 at halftime, but Northside gained an advantage in the second half. Senior Jack Felkner had 17 to lead Latin (6-6).
St. Andrews Episcopal (MD) 53, Statesville Christian 49: Statesville (15-1) lost for the first time this season in the finals of the HBC Palm Beaches (Fla.) championship game. Senior guard Logan Mosley led the Lions with 11 points. Statesville Christian struggled to score early, trailed 23-14 at halftime. A fourth quarter rally fell short.