Naughty or nice, holiday tourney wish lists will get filled soon


After four weeks, the high school basketball season has established a degree of order. Now it’s time to blow it all up again.

Local teams have used the season’s first month to feel out rotations, find an identity and, hopefully, get a few good wins.

Holiday tournaments in the next two weeks will either reinforce those identities or throw a wrench in the plans. The Cape Fear 3A East-West Challenge is this weekend at Cape Fear Academy, while the Leon Brogden Holiday Tournament and smaller tournaments at Wilmington Christian and Trask all follow Christmas.

Some teams are hoping to use their events to validate a strong start. Ashley’s boys are off to the best start in school history and have good wins against Jack Britt and West Craven.

“My approach is it’s just another challenge,” coach Bryn McSwain said of his team’s effort at the Brogden. “I like challenging these guys and seeing how they react. Will they react with bad habits or rise to the occasion and win?”

McSwain has history to pull from. Last year, New Hanover won the Brogden after beating Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph’s. The Wildcats carried that momentum all the way to a state title.

This season, the Wildcats’ boys are in a very different place: 3-4 with lopsided losses to Clayton and Millbrook. Coach Kirk Angel said he doesn’t talk much about last season with his current team, but he knows the Brogden could jump-start the Wildcats again.

“It’ll be interesting for this team,” Angel said. “Last year’s team hated to be away from each other. This year’s team; those three days will tell a lot.”

Getting a little better

New Hanover isn’t the only team hoping to shake up the early hierarchy with a strong tournament performance. Cape Fear Academy’s girls basketball team is also trying to rebuild. The Hurricanes are 2-6, but play host to the NCISAA 3A East-West Challenge after moving up a classification.

Coach Ray Beatty said the tournament will be a three-day crash course in where he wants the Hurricanes to be.

“They need to see the talent level we’re playing against and where we want to be within a year or so,” Beatty said. “I want people to see that’s what we’re striving to be like with this team and with this program. We have all the structure and everything there we need, we just have to build a program up.”

Most teams are simply looking forward to a concentrated three days of competition to continue working out early-season kinks.

Ashley’s girls team provides a good example. The Screaming Eagles are still adjusting after losing starting center and defensive lynchpin Morgan Davis to injury.

So far, Ashley’s girls are 4-3 with losses to West Craven, Jack Britt and Seventy-First. Coach Adrienne Gale hopes the Brogden Tournament will provide a chance for her team to do so, rapidly.

“Sometimes you have to be able to listen, change and fix on the fly,” Gale said. “In that aspect, it’s good.”



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