CHARLOTTE- Prime seating may be hard to come by for those arriving late to the opening game of the Best of Carolina Holiday Classic at Butler High School on Friday night. Carolina Prep (Chapel Hill, NC) squares off against Hamilton Heights (Chattanooga, TN) in a 7 p.m tilt.
Hamilton Heights (4-1) enters the game ranked #4 nationally by USA TODAY with their only loss on the season coming at the hands of nationally ranked #3 Bishop McNamara from suburban Washington D.C, 57-54 back on December 1st. The Lady Hawks finished as runner-ups at the GEICO National Championship last season after going 26-3 against a formidable national schedule. With a plethora of talent returning for 2018-19 look for Hamilton Heights to be in the hunt for a national title again this season. Hamilton Heights boasts one of the most lethal frontcourt trios in the country- 6-2 senior Esmery Martinez is a dominant swing who signed with national power Mississippi State last month. 6-1 junior Treasure Hunt is equally adept at shooting from deep and attacking the rim. The versatile Hunt, ranked in the Top 10 nationally in the class of 2020, also spends time running the point for Hamilton Heights. 6-7 center Kamila Cardosa, another Top 10 national recruit, is a game changer in the middle for the Lady Hawks.
CPA has a budding star of their own in the presence of 6-1 F/C Darnisha Farris . The sophomore is a dominant rebounder and shot-blocker who can score the ball down low. Scrappy guard Madison Mims is a sparkplug out front and Olivia Himes is another impact player for Coach Corey Hairstons squad.
Hamilton Heights won an early season matchup between these two squads 59-27 back in mid-November. The Lady Hawks jumped out to a 34-9 halftime lead and were never headed. With revenge as a motivating factor, look for Carolina Prep to present more of a challenge in this one.
The Best of Carolina Holiday Classic gets in to full swing on Saturday with a nine game slate beginning at 9 a.m.
In the days first contest perennial NCISAA power CFA Academy (5-2) takes on Hopewell (2-0) out of the MECKA 4A conference. Despite heavy graduation losses CFA Academy has rapidly morphed in to one of the more dangerous private school teams in the state. Senior guard Jada McMillan (19.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.5 apg) does most of the heavy lifting for the Eagles. Sophomore Zykia Benjamin (9.4 ppg,5.3 rpg, 2.6 spg) and junior guard Bailey Stinson( 6.0 ppg, 3.1 apg, 3.6 spg) are valuable contributors from the wings with sophomore Salma Zayed (10.9 ppg, 52% fg. Pct) being the Eagles primary perimeter threat.
Historically Coach Bill Middlebrooks’ squads have faired well against public school competition. In order to continue that trend cfa Academy will have to find a way to slow down the Titans 6-0 junior wing Aniya Finger (16.5 ppg.,10.0 rpg, 3.5 spg) and sophomore Nevaeh Caldwell (12.0 ppg., 6.0 rpg.).Either of the pair are capable of taking over a game offensively and are vastly underrated on the defensive end as well. 6-0 sophomore Assetou Ballo (8.5 rpg.) is a dominant presence on the glass for Hopewell. Seniors Nawaza Chambers (8.5 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 2.5 apg) and Ariana Montgomery ( 8.0 ppg., 4.0 rpg.) are also impact players for Hopewell.
Cardinal Newman (Columbia, S.C.) squares off against Vance High (Charlotte, N.C.) in Saturday mornings second game. The two teams present one of the more intriguing matchups of The Best of Carolina Holiday Classic. The Cardinals travel up I-77 from Columbia, S.C to lock horns with one of the Charlotte metro areas top squads, the Vance Cougars (4-0). Cardinal Newman freshman Ashlyn Watkins (23.0 ppg, 22.5 rpg) is dunking on regulation hoops with regularity and vigor. Junior Audrey Myers (14 ppg., 6 rpg) is a dangerous player who should keep the Cougars from focusing too much attention on Watkins. Tanaja Kennedy (12.5 ppg, 5.5 apg) runs the show out front for Cardinal Newman.
Vance is being touted as a legitimate challenger for a NCHSAA 4A state title this season. Coach Donnell Rhynes’ squad has size, speed and enough swag to dominate most opponents. With three blowout victories to open the season the Cougars have 7 players who average between six and nine points per outing. 6-0 junior Kyanna Morgan, (9 ppg., 4 rpg., 4 spg), sophomore Leah Barringer (7.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Tanajah Hayes (7.0 ppg, 4.3 spg.) have been among the team leaders to start the 2018-19 campaign. Vance also has a game changer inside with 6-1 sophomore Amhyia Moreland, a classic banger and shot-blocker in the pivot. 6-2 freshman Trinity Moreland averages 8 points an outing and shoots just under 70% from the field.
The Cougars may have too much depth and firepower for the Palmetto state squad but the chance to see Watkins throw down a jam or two is more than worth the price of admission.
At high noon on Saturday get your popcorn ready for a showdown featuring two of the most dominant performers in the southeast. Wilson High (S.C) stalwart Loyal McQueen, A North Carolina commit, squares off against North Mecklenburg scoring machine Jessica Timmons. McQueen is a quicksilver, do-everything guard who is capable of taking over games on the offensive end. Whether off the bounce or firing away from the perimeter, McQueen is a match-up problem for even the most capable defenders. A trio of seniors are the backbone of Coach Jessica Gerald’s 4-0 squad. 6-0 wing Jada Nowlin, 5-4 guard Kiashia Jones and Shan’iah Gregg are all capable of stuffing the stat sheet on any given night.
North Mecklenburg counters with one of the Tar Heel states more dangerous scorers. Timmons is literally in range from the moment she steps off the bus. A super quick release and assassins mentality enable Timmons to rack up points in bunches. North Mecklenburg is off to a 4-0 start winning by nearly 25 points per game, but will face their biggest challenge of the season in trying to dispatch this South Carolina squad.
The 1:30 matchup at the Best of Carolina Holiday Classic features a pair of strong South Carolina teams when Northwood Academy (6-1) and Ridge View take the court. Northwood is led by a trio of seniors- La’Royalty Jones (13.3 ppg., 3..5 rpg., 2.8 apg.), Carrington Simpson (12.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Tyashia Bostick (11.3 ppg., 7.3 rpg., 3.8 apg.).
Ridge View counters with one of the best sophomores in the state of South Carolina in the form of 6-0 wing Laila Acox (16.6 ppg., 11.6 rpg., 3.8 apg.,2.8 bpg.). Acox has the quickness and agility to step out and frustrate the opposition from the perimeter, while her length and basketball savvy allow her to do damage in traffic as well. 5-7 senior guard Aaliyah Kelley (13.2 ppg., 5.6 rpg) is a capable performer in her own right who insures that teams can’t focus too much attention on Acox.
Hoopvolle is an official sponsor of Best of Carolina Holiday Classic
The Georgia Metros are an official sponsor of Best of Carolina Holiday Classic