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.
The schedules for this week's Greater Neuse River 4-A Conference basketball tournaments:
Tonight's (Monday) Girls' Quarterfinals:
(No. 8) West Johnston at (No. 1) Southeast Raleigh, 7
(No. 5) Smithfield-Selma at (No. 4) Clayton, 7
(No. 7) Knightdale at (No. 2) Holly Springs, 7
(No. 6) Garner at (No. 3) East Wake, 7
Tuesday's Boys' Quarterfinals:
(No. 8) Smithfield-Selma at (No. 1) Garner, 7
(No. 5) Southeast Raleigh at (No. 4) West Johnston, 7
(No. 7) Holly Springs at (No. 2) Knightdale, 7
(No. 6) East Wake at (No. 3) Clayton, 7
This weekend is the state competition for individual championships. By the numbers we have:
20 - wrestlers from the area
8 - schools represented
4/4 - ratio of schools along Highway 55 represented
2 - defending state champions (Palma, Creed)
5 - wrestlers ranked No. 1 in their class by ncmat.com (Palma, Creed, Brotzman, Colvard, Morrison)
1 - wrestler ranked No. 1 in the nation (Palma)
Click "READ MORE" for the full list!
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.
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.
With both programs in just in their third years of existence, both the Holly Springs boys and girls basketball teams are vying for position in the state playoffs.
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.
After demolishing Chapel Hill 64-9 and Green Hope 58-12, Cary has advanced to the third round of the state dual-team playoffs.
The Imps were especially proficient in dismantling the latter, giving up just two takedowns the entire match. The Falcons got team points only by forfeitures.
Cary has asked the NCHSAA if they could host the next round which seems likely since.. oh, just keep reading...
Everything went downhill fast after the Falcons went up 31-9 over East Wake in the first round of the state dual-team playoffs. Green Hope held on to win 42-31 and was very fortunate East Wake didn't have a wrestler at 125, which happened to be the last match of the meet.
The Falcons then ran into their usual post-season buzz-saw Cary. The Imps were up 35-0 before finally forfeiting a match at 215. They ended their season 23-4, with two of those losses coming to the Imps
I saw this coming. The Catamounts went down to Fayetteville and toppled host (and heavy favorite) Seventy-First 37-34. Can't wait to hear how that went down.
Panther Creek then defeated New Bern in the next round to advance to round #3 for the first time in school history.
In the next round, they will take on Durham Riverside, with the winner getting the winner between Cary vs. Leesville Road. Since all three schools are centrally located, it's probably not out of the question that Cary will host.
Should the Imps and Catamounts both win, it would make for a fourth-round rematch of the 33-27 win by Cary earlier in the year.
The Golden Hawks had a tough task, facing Riverside on its home turf. Nonetheless, Holly Springs made it a competitive fight, falling 40-31. Next year the team will be competing in the same conference as those listed above, when the Tri-Eight makes room for Holly Springs and becomes the Tri-Nine.
Panther Creek will be headed south to Fayetteville on Tuesday to face host Fayetteville Seventy-First in the first round of the state dual-team playoffs. The winner from the match between the Catamounts and Falcons will face the winner from Sanderson-New Bern.
That rounds out the four teams in our area that will be competing in the state dual-team playoffs.
To recap: Cary vs. Chapel Hill (at Chapel Hill), winner advances to play winner of Green Hope vs. East Wake; Holly Springs vs. Durham Riverside (at Riverside), winner takes on winner of Hope Mills South View and Scotland County.