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Bracketology: The EPIC, TISAC and Greater Neuse boys' and girls' basketball tournaments

Sports Editor J. Mike Blake looks at the other boys' and girls' basketball teams playing conference tournaments this week, and gives his predictions on how Cary Christian, Cary Academy and Holly Springs will do in their brackets.

TCN/SWW Boys' basketball rankings 2/15

Conference tournament time is here, and we're glad to supply you with another edition of the TCN/SWW boys' basketball rankings as you get geared up for this week's action:

1. Panther Creek (22-2, 13-1): defeated Cary 74-55, def. Middle Creek 61-44

I guess that settles it. Panther Creek is the best team in this area, and probably the eastern half of the state. Keeping a level head amidst all my praise in the coming weeks will be key for the Catamounts if they want to win the state title this year — which its entirely capable of.

2. Athens Drive (21-3, 11-3): def. Middle Creek 57-52, def. Green Hope 67-47

Credit Athens coach Robert Clemons. After his team was humiliated at Panther Creek, they found themselves down 46-37 to Middle Creek going into the fourth quarter. The Jaguars rallied to win 57-52 and them demolished playoff-bound Green Hope on Friday. Josh Davis had a monster week, going for 31 on his senior night against Middle Creek and then 27 against Green Hope. He's the reason they are No. 2 in the conference tournament (him and the luck of the draw) and also No. 2 in the TCN/SWW rankings.

TCN/SWW Girls' basketball rankings 2/15

The regular season is done, but the TCN/SWW girls' basketball rankings keep marching on. This week, we had some big upsets (Green Hope over Athens, Fuquay over Cary) which prompted us to have to move a number of teams as we head into the conference tournaments for the EPIC, TISAC, Tri-Eight and Greater Neuse.

1. Apex (21-0, 14-3): defeated Fuquay-Varina 69-20, def. Lee County 86-51

The Cougars have been No. 1 every week in '09 and it looks like they'll stay that way for the rest of the weeks. They are the clear-cut class of this year's TCN/SWW teams and have a legitimate shot of winning the state title — especially if they can make it out of the East against teams like SE Raleigh and Wakefield.

2/8 TCN/SWW boys' basketball rankings

Panther Creek lost and I still couldn't take them out of my top spot. Why? Because the Catamounts looked like a small college team the way they shut down Athens Drive in every facet of the game on Friday. But if somebody else deserves the top spot in the TCN/SWW rankings we will find out this week. Check out the rest of them below as we had some movers & shakers after some unexpected results.


1. Panther Creek (20-2): lost to Apex 72-62, defeated Athens Drive 50-30
--up next: @ Cary (Tue.), @ Middle Creek (Fri.)
  • I didn't exactly predict it, but I did say PC would "have trouble [winning twice] this week when they travel to Apex and host Athens Drive." So the Catamounts will probably lose their No. 1 ranking in the statewide poll this week due to their loss @ Apex, but they don't have to lose the conference. That much was saved when PC dismantled Athens Drive on Friday, leading by as much as 27. If both PC and MC survive Tuesday, Friday's game will be for the regular-season conference title outright.

2. Middle Creek (19-3): def. Fuquay-Varina 94-48, def. Lee County 67-47
--up next: @ Athens Drive (Tue.), Panther Creek (Fri.)
  • The schedule-makers gave Middle Creek a unique four-game stretch to end the season where the Mustangs go from possibly the two easiest games in the conference to the two hardest. If the 'Stangs win both games, there's no denying this team deserves the regular-season title. And I know sometimes we take MC for granted. They do have two future D-1 players. But the fact this team has hardly missed a beat from last year is a testament to coach David Kushner. The flaws are out there for the taking, but somehow the Mustangs overcome them time and time again.

3. Athens Drive (20-3): def. Lee County 63-54, lost to Panther Creek 50-30
--up next: Middle Creek (Tue.), @ Green Hope (Fri.)
  • I agree with Athens coach Robert Clemons. I've never seen a BAD 20-3 team. But I have seen a 20-3 team play bad, and that was the Jaguars on Friday. It was humiliating. The Jags don't want to be pigeonholed as the No. 3 team in the Tri-Eight (and the TCN/SWW rankings) and no better or worse. For them to get that respect, they've got to beat Middle Creek. Not falling behind 20-0 or 29-8 as they did in the teams' last meeting would be preferable. 

4. Cary Academy (17-6): def. Durham Academy 68-54, def. North Raleigh Christian Academy 64-60
--up next: Forsyth Country Day (Tue.), Ravenscroft (Fri.)
  • If I we had to hand out a Coach of the Year award for the TCN/SWW teams, first-year man Kenny Inge would be my darkhorse. His Chargers have steadily improved each week and are now locked in for no worse than second place in the TISAC. It's a long shot, but Inge's team can actually force a tie for first if they were to pull off the unthinkable against Ravenscroft on Friday. 

5. Apex (11-10): def. Panther Creek 72-62, def. Cary 73-55
--up next: @ Fuquay (Tue.), Lee County (Fri.)
  • Last week I pondered if Apex was going to roll over and die after three straight losses, two coming in the last minute, and Panther Creek coming into town. Answer: NO. The Cougars put up the second-most points by a Catamount opponent this season and proved yet again why David Neal is one of the area's best coaches, why Apex is one of the toughest places to play and why you can't count the Cougars out no matter how bad things get.

6. Green Hope (8-14): lost to Cary 58-57, def. Fuquay 69-52
--up next: @ Lee County (Tue.), Athens Drive (Fri.) 
  • To say the Falcons missed a chance against Cary last Tuesday is like saying my Wolfpack simply lost a lead today to Virginia Tech. If there was a team the Falcons couldn't afford to lose to as they fight for the fifth spot in the Tri-Eight it was Cary. Or maybe it was Lee County. See, the winner of the GH-Lee game this Tuesday might be in the driver's seat for the final automatic playoff spot. Green Hope still has the edge there (4-8 Tri-8) for now, but a loss would muddle things and possibly force a 3-way tie. And as we saw in football season, that's decided by the luck of the draw.

7. Holly Springs (7-15): lost to Knightdale 67-49, def. Smithfield-Selma 64-52
--up next: @ SE Raleigh (Tue.), Garner (Fri.) 
  • The Golden Hawks needed some help to get to fifth place in the Greater Neuse Conference (aka the last automatic playoff bid) and they got it. Now they need more. Garner, Knightdale and Clayton have got the top three spots. West Johnston, East Wake and HSHS are all tied at 4-8 in the conference at the fourth, fifth and sixth spots. East Wake swept both HSHS and WJO so they'd get priority if the three teams tied for the last two spots. HOWEVER, East Wake has games with both Garner AND Knightdale this week. That hellacious late-season schedule should give HSHS more than enough chance to claim fourth or fifth in the conference. Tuesday's opponent, SE Raleigh, is 3-9 in conference play this year.

8. Cary (3-18):  def. Green Hope 58-57, lost to Apex 71-55
--up next: Panther Creek (Tue.), Fuquay (Fri.) 
  • Safe to say this is the best 3-18 team I've ever seen. It's the Imps' grit that has kept them in the playoff race thus far. Just in the last two weeks they've taken Middle Creek to the wire, toughed it out with Apex for a half and upset a Green Hope team that thought it wouldn't have to worry about losing its fifth place in the conference standings to Cary. Now Green Hope must worry. Cary needs to force and then win a 3-way tie for the last automatic playoff bid, but that scenario isn't entirely unlikely. First, they've got to defeat Fuquay on Friday (I'm chalking up the PC game as a L). Then they must have GH lose to Lee on Tuesday and have both teams lose on Friday (against Athens and Apex respectively) so that all three finish with 4-10 records in Tri-Eight play. Considering their recent play, it wasn't fair to keep the Imps at No. 9, so we bumped them up a spot this week.

9. Cary Christian (8-14): def. Arendell-Parrott Academy 59-36, def. Rocky Mount Academy 65-57
--up next: @ Halifax Academy (Tue.), Rocky Mount Academy (Fri.)
  • Darn that St. David's team. They are the only EPIC member (that's the EPIC conference mind you) to defeat Cary Christian this year. The Knights can clinch second place in the EPIC standings if they sweep this week's games.

10. Fuquay-Varina (3-18): lost to Middle Creek 94-48, lost to Green Hope 69-52
--up next: Apex (Tue.), @ Cary (Fri.) 
  • In their current 11-game losing streak, the lowest margin of defeat for the Bengals came on a 64-61 loss to Cary. The good news is that Fuquay will get one more chance at the Imps on Friday, which should be the last chance for a feel-good moment before baseball season begins in the FV. 


2/8 TCN/SWW girls' basketball rankings

There's just one week left in the regular season, and teams are vying for conference seeding which will help them in terms of playoff placement. They're also vying for position in the TCN/SWW girls' basketball rankings, but some teams just won't let you skip them. 

1. Apex (19-0): defeated Panther Creek 68-30, def. Cary 63-27 --up next: Fuquay-Varina (Tue.), @ Lee County (Fri.)

  • It's perplexing, really. Apex is the only undefeated 4-A team in the state, yet is ranked fourth and has just one No. 1 vote. What's up with that? One possible explanation is that not playing in a Christmas tournament hurt Apex from a exposure and competitive standpoint. While No. 1 Wakefield, which has comparable margins of victory and record, was in South Carolina taking on the best-of-the-best, Apex was at home staying both out of sight and mind of the voters. The Cougs will just have to prove themselves in the state playoffs in two weeks.

2. Athens Drive (18-4): def. Lee County 89-41, def. Panther Creek 67-29 --up next: @ Middle Creek (Tue.), Green Hope (Fri.)

  • As easy as last week's schedule was, this week's is a complete 180 for Athens. If the Lady Jaguars want to keep their hold on second place in the conference, they can't afford a losing to the third-place teams in Middle Creek or Green Hope. It should be a good test heading into the conference tournament, where you just know the Jags want nothing more than a third try at taking down Apex.

3. Cary Christian (21-3-?): def. Arendell-Parrott Academy 52-13, ?? Rocky Mount Academy --up next: @ Halifax Academy (Tue.), Rocky Mount Academy (Wed.)

  • We don't know how they did against Rocky Mount Academy (yet). But while we're talking about how good Apex has been on the public school 4-A level, Cary Christian has been pretty darn impressive on the private school 2-A level. They are the lesser-known team that will be shooting for a state championship in the coming weeks.


    4. Green Hope (10-10): def. Cary 69-34, def. Fuquay-Varina --up next: Lee County (Tue.), @ Athens Drive (Fri.) 

    •  You just can't say enough about the job Michael Robinson has done at Green Hope this year. His Falcons have won eight of their last 12 with losses to just Apex, Athens and Middle Creek. If they can beat Athens and Middle Creek can't, they lock up the No. 3 spot in the Tri-Eight.

    5. Middle Creek (15-7): def. Fuquay 58-27, def. Lee County 70-51 --up next: Athens Drive (Tue.), @ Panther Creek

    •  The Lady Mustangs have a huge showdown with Athens on Tuesday. They certainly have the size to match-up with the Jaguars, but Middle Creek lost their first meeting by 20. If the Mustangs are hitting their 3-ball, which is a lot more likely on their home rims, it could be an exciting game.

    6. Cary Academy (16-9): lost to Durham Academy 48-32, lost to North Raleigh Christian Academy 55-49 --up next: Forsyth Country Day (Tue.), Ravenscroft (Fri.)


    • Somehow, Cary Academy turned a 17-point victory into a six-point loss in just a week with two games against NRCA just seven days apart. Losers in three of their last four, the Lady Chargers have plummeted in our rankings, falling from fourth to sixth. Good news isn't on the horizon either, as they play conference-leading Ravenscroft on Friday. We considered dropping the Chargers even further, but the fact Holly Springs plays in the GNC stopped their fall at No. 6.


    7. Holly Springs (13-9):  lost to Knightdale 38-34, def. Smithfield-Selma 48-45 --up next: @ SE Raleigh (Tue.), Garner (Fri.)

    •  Holly Springs missed a chance last week. If they beat Knightdale, they are all alone in second-place in the Greater Neuse Conference. Instead, they're tied with East Wake. I know what you're thinking: "Why is that bad? Those two teams split the regular-season series." But East Wake doesn't have Southeast Raleigh (12-0 in GNC play) on the schedule and the Golden Hawks do. Advantage: East Wake. Pencil HSHS in for third place — still not bad for a third-year program. 

    8: Cary (5-15): lost to Green Hope 69-34, lost to Apex 63-27 --up next: @ Panther Creek (Tue.), @ Fuquay-Varina (Fri.)

    • The Lady Imps round out their regular season with two teams they've defeated before. While Cary hasn't beaten anyone it wasn't expected to beat, it hasn't lost to anyone it shouldn't have either. A pair of wins will clinch the fifth and final playoff spot in the Tri-Eight.

    9: Fuquay-Varina (4-17): lost to Middle Creek 58-27, lost to Green Hope --up next -- @ Apex (Tue.), Cary (Fri.)

    • The bad news is Fuquay has little chance to get the fifth spot and a playoff berth this year. The good news is they have at least a chance when they host Cary on Friday, and the better news is they'll lose just two seniors from this year's team and will have a better chance next year. 

    10: Panther Creek (3-19):  lost to Apex 68-30, lost to Athens Drive 67-29 --up next: Cary (Tue.), Middle Creek (Fri.) 

    • The girls' program at PC didn't take off in year three like the boys' did, but then again there was no Earnest Ross or Marques Oliver to be found. They will close out this regular season with a pair of home games.

    TCN/SWW Boys' basketball rankings 2/1 (my bad!)

    The Super Bowl, traveling to South Carolina and back, and the common cold delayed the TCN/SWW boys' basketball rankings for a day — but I wouldn't let these things keep them down for long.

    One playoff team finds itself slipping in the polls this week after three straight disheartening losses...

    TCN/SWW Girls' basketball rankings 2/1 (one day late)

    We're a day late and possibly a dollar short, but here are this week's TCN/SWW rankings for our area's girls' basketball teams. There are just two weeks left in the regular season counting this week's action.

    Cary Christian games reset for next week

    Admist all the snow that was dumped on Wake County last week Cary Christian was the only team in our area was affected.

    The Knights were to host Rocky Mount Academy last Tuesday but that has been rescheduled. The JV teams will play that game on Monday, Feb. 2 at 3:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The varsity teams will play on Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 3:15 and 4:30 p.m respectively.

    TCN/SWW Boys' basketball rankings 1/25

    Not much changed this week in the TCN/SWW boys' basketball rankings. But this week could loom large for those still trying to move up in the standings as we expand to 10 teams with Fuquay-Varina entering this week. To see where the Bengals entered, click the blue "Read More" button below.

    TCN/SWW Girls' basketball rankings 1/25

    This week, we're the TCN/SWW rankings instead of just the TCN rankings. This of course, is because we're The Cary News to the towns of Morrisville and Cary, but the Southwest Wake News (I leave out News and abbreviate it SWW for Southwest Wake) to Apex, Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina.

    Speaking of Fuquay-Varina, we welcome that school to our weekly rankings of the area's girls and boys basketball teams.

    In this week's TCN/SWW girls' rankings, Green Hope reached their highest ranking of the year.

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