Lakeside's Jeremy Van Valkenburg (left) is pressed by Greenbrier's Carl Loyd (center) and Eugene Rogers during the Christmas Tournament in Harlem.
Photo by Jim BlaylockToya Coard and Eric Marshall both carried small trophies as they exited the Harlem High School gym last week, but that hardware was just part of the bigger picture.
Namely, the big trophies their teams earned by taking titles at the Columbia County Christmas Tournament.
Miss Coard led her Lakeside High School basketball team to the girls' championship, while Mr. Marshall paced the Greenbrier High School squad to a crown in the boys' bracket.
When the two-day event concluded Thursday, Miss Coard and Mr. Marshall picked up Most Valuable Player honors, and they didn't mind sharing the glory.
"We're all about teamwork," Miss Coard said. "We all play together and we're all winners. I love my team and I'm thankful to get the ball every now and then."
In the championship game against Evans, Miss Coard got the ball and let it fly, hitting seven 3-point shots in the first half. Her only miss from 3-point range came on a half-court shot as time expired in the first quarter.
The senior guard's shooting barrage boosted the Lady Panthers to a 38-16 halftime lead. From there, Lakeside cruised to a 51-35 victory to take a second-straight Christmas Tournament title.
Miss Coard opened the tournament with 27 points during a 56-20 victory over Harlem, and she tacked on 23 more - all the in the first half - against the Lady Knights.
Lakeside junior Jamie Lake did her part in the finale, chipping in 10 points, nine rebounds and five steals. Miss Lake joined Miss Coard as an all-tournament selection.
While Miss Coard couldn't miss, Mr. Marshall struggled during the championship game against Lakeside. The Pack senior got in early foul trouble, and never found his shooting touch.
With Mr. Marshall on the bench for much of the second quarter, Lakeside surged to a 26-23 halftime lead behind 18 points from Matt Scott.
In the second half, Greenbrier switched to a zone defense, and that was the difference - Dupaul Scott blocked two Lakeside shots, and J.C. Jennings added another rejection for the Pack.
Greenbrier limited Lakeside to 11 second-half points, as the Pack prevailed 53-37 to defend their Christmas Tournament title.
"If my shots aren't falling, my teammates are going to step up," Mr. Marshall said. "I have faith in them. Good teams find a way to win, and that's what we did tonight."
While Mr. Marshall finished with just nine points in the clincher, he did haul in 15 rebounds, notched a blocked shot, had three assists and added two steals. Those contributions, along with a 26-point performance in an opening win against Evans, gave Mr. Marshall his second-straight MVP award in the Columbia County Christmas Tournament.
With the two wins last week at Harlem, Greenbrier improved its record to 10-0. The Pack also strengthened their stranglehold on the holiday event - Greenbrier has won four of the past five Columbia County Christmas tournaments.
"That says a lot about our basketball program at Greenbrier," said first-year Pack coach Garrett Black, whose father, Danny, led the team to three of the titles.
"Dad left me something to work with. He's the one who set the table for me this year."
Columbia County Christmas Tournament Recap
First round (Thursday): girls - Evans 38, Greenbrier 31; Lakeside 56, Harlem 20; boys - Greenbrier 50, Evans 31; Lakeside 50, Harlem 47.
Consolation games (Friday): girls - Greenbrier 35, Harlem 30; boys - Evans 52, Harlem 43.
Championship games (Friday): girls - Lakeside 51, Evans 35; boys - Greenbrier 53, Lakeside 37.
Girls: Lakeside - Toya Coard (Most Valuable Player), Jamie Lake; Evans - Bekah Gibbs; Greenbrier - Katie Sutherland; Harlem - Sharday Taylor.
Boys: Greenbrier - Eric Marshall (Most Valuable Player), J.C. Jennings; Lakeside - Matt Scott; Evans - John Harris; Harlem - Kelvin Sturgis.
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