Basketball bragging rights will be on the line this week when prep squads compete in the Columbia County Christmas Tournament at Lakeside High School.
The two-day event begins Friday, with the Greenbrier and Evans girls and boys tipping things off, followed by games pitting the Lakeside and Harlem teams. The winners will meet Saturday to decide the championships.
On the girls' side, look for a finale between defending champ Greenbrier and the home team - and possible tournament favorite - Lakeside.
The Lady Panthers' one-two punch of Toya Coard and Nichole Bennett will be hard to stop, and Lakeside coach Bill Richey has been getting great play from senior Brittany Watts.
Lakeside must contend with Greenbrier's solid inside game, which is sparked by Christina Large and Lindsey Sutherland. Also, Lady Wolfpack guards Erica Johnson and Cat Banks might be able to counter Coard and Bennett.
But with a homecourt advantage, Lakeside will have the best shot at hoisting the trophy Saturday.
The outcome is wide open on the boys' side, as Harlem, Lakeside and Evans all appear to be equally matched.
Evans already has won close games against the Bulldogs and Panthers, but Harlem has been turning some heads under second-year coach Kim Chambers.
The Dogs have great athleticism in Domonique Brown and Tim Camp, and Chris Williams has emerged as a solid scorer. Brown and Camp are just coming off football season, and when they get in basketball shape, Harlem could be one of the surprising teams in the area.
Harlem is the only Columbia County team that has never won the Christmas Tournament (the Harlem girls and Greenbrier boys are two-time champions, while all the other teams have earned one title during the tournament's five-year run), but perhaps some of the school's football success will carry over to the hardwood.
Don't discount Lakeside, though. The Panthers are probably the best shooting team in the county, with Matt Scott, Matt Josephson and company, and the homecourt advantage won't hurt.
Still, first-year Lakeside coach Richie Carnes needs someone to step up inside, and that job could fall to Alex Bragg and Adi Filipovic.
Evans, of course, is the defending boys' champion, and the Knights still are playing great defense, led by Kendrick Davis. Offensively, guards John Harris and Teddy Ingram have been carrying the load.
Greenbrier has to be considered a long shot; with the possible exception of Tommy McKinney, the Wolfpack's two best players won't even be suited up for the Christmas tournament - transfer student Eric Marshall isn't eligible until January and Philip Tapley skipped hoop season to concentrate on baseball.
As for a prediction - Who knows? But it should be fun to watch.
Editor's note: My apologies to columnist Ashley Brown. In Wednesday's Bottom Line, where Brown addressed a playoff system in college football, I misidentified "BCS." This was my mistake, not A.B.'s - he knows BCS stands for Bowl Championship Series, and I obviously should watch ESPN more and the Golf Channel less. - Mike Howell, Sports Editor.
Ashley Brown's radio program can be heard from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on News-Talk Sports 1630 AM. His e-mail address is AB@WRDWAM.com.
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