Maybe it's because the gym is usually a little less crowded but the middle night of the Eastern Carolina Classic holiday high school basketball tournament always seems more fun. Monday night at Fike for the 33rd Classic (31st for girls) certainly fit the bill.
I didn't get there in time to see Hunt beat Greene Central 42-25 in the girls consolation game but the boys semifinals matchup between Hunt and Beddingfield was well worth putting off my desk work for an hour or so. The Warriors went on an 18-0 spree in the third quarter to overcome a 17-point halftime deficit and turned the game into a tense, back-and-forth affair in the fourth quarter.
Play was sloppy at times, the officiating was lax at times and the decision-making was, well, horrible at times. But the game was pretty much as good as it gets in high school basketball. Fike's packed, sweaty gym reverberated with fans' reactions to the players' intensity. The kids were working so hard, knowing that a big play in front of a big Classic crowd was worth 10 times more than one during just about any other game.
Adding to the atmosphere was a battle between the cheerleaders as during many timeouts, one or two members of each squad would hit the floor for a series of somersaults that made me queasy just watching them spin. The Hunt cheerleaders clearly dominated here and they made sure their Beddingfield counterparts knew it.
It seems the Classic is back on good footing after a poor turnout at Hunt last year. The Wilson Daily Times (that's us) reported tickets sold through the first two nights in 2007 numbered around 1,300. Fike athletic director John Gay told me Monday night that around 1,162 were sold at Saturday's opening round and about 775 more for Monday's two games. Considering Fike's gym seats considerably less than Hunt's facility, that made for a great environment and I'm sure Tuesday will be as good, if not better.
Here are a few more outstanding photos from Monday night's action, taken by Daily Times staff writer Ryan Bisesi who also shot the images on my last blog entry.
Hunt girls head coach Quentin Rogers, right, gives senior Shantia Creech props as she comes off the floor against Greene Central.
The Warriors take the floor flanked by the Hunt cheerleaders.
Ken Spells, right, helps Beddingfield teammate Daquan Langston up. Spells had the right idea because Langston hit six 3-pointers for a game-high 23 points.
I thought this was a bad shot by Beddingfield senior Jermal Artis (22) but I couldn't see from the other end of the court that Hunt's Ahmad Young fouled him — as it appears here. But it wasn't called and the Warriors got the rebound.
Friends try to console Terrell Winstead, whose potential game-tying jumper was just short in the Bruins' 60-58 loss. Don't fret, Terrell, you'll get at least two more shots at the Warriors this season.