The Columbia County Christmas Tournament will bring some holiday cheers this week to the Lakeside High School gymnasium, where Evans, Harlem, Greenbrier and Lakeside will vie for basketball titles.
The tournament begins Friday with four games, and concludes Saturday with consolation and championship contests in both the girls' and boys' divisions.
Lakeside's Nichole Bennett shoots over E vans' Ashley Hale during the Christmas Tournament last Friday and Saturday at Evans High School. All four public high schools in the county participated.
Photo by Mike Howell
Last year, the Evans Knights entered the event as favorites, and lived up to that billing with two easy wins on their home court.
Picking the boys' champion this year isn't as easy.
"The Christmas tournament, I believe, is wide open," Evans coach Kevin Kenny said. "Any of the four boys' teams can win it, and that hasn't always been the case."
Although the trophy appears to be up for grabs, with Lakeside (3-4) and Evans (4-3) hovering around the .500 mark, and with Greenbrier (1-6) struggling, Harlem (5-2) could be primed to claim its first Christmas tournament crown this week.
The Bulldogs gained momentum with wins at Westside and Richmond Academy last week. Harlem takes a four-game winning streak into the Christmas break, while Evans and Lakeside both have lost two straight.
"Harlem may make a run. They look good," Lakeside coach Richie Carnes said. "We've beaten them once, but now they have their football players and they're a totally different team. If we can control the tempo, we should do OK. We can't race up and down the court with them."
On the girls' side, defending champion Greenbrier (4-4) faces Evans (1-6) in first-round play Friday, while the Lakeside girls (3-4) will open with Harlem (3-6). The Lady Panthers already have posted convincing wins over Evans and Harlem this season, and the Lady Wolfpack has knocked off Harlem.
The Lady Panthers and Lady Pack have not met this season, but the Region 3-AAAA rivals may wind up battling for the Christmas title Saturday at 5 p.m.
Columbia County Christmas Tournament
Evans vs. Greenbrier (girls), 3 p.m.; Evans vs. Greenbrier (boys), 4:30 p.m.; Harlem vs. Lakeside (girls), 6 p.m.; Harlem vs. Lakeside (boys), 7:30 p.m.
Girls consolation game, 2 p.m.; boys consolation game, 3:30 p.m.; girls championship game, 5 p.m.; boys championship game, 6:30 p.m.
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