The three-day events are designed as preparation for the grueling region schedules teams will see in the second half of the season.
“This might be the deepest girls field we’ve had in a while,” said Campbell girls coach Randy McClure, whose team beat South Cobb for the Classic title last year.
Campbell will face Carver-Atlanta in the first round of the 17th annual tournament.
Hiram and Westlake are also on the Lady Spartans’ part of the bracket. In the other half are Langston Hughes, Kell and two of Campbell’s Region 4AAAAAA rivals, Hillgrove and Marietta.
Hughes will face Hillgrove in today’s first round, as will Kell and Marietta.
“We’re the defending champs, but this is a strong field,” said McClure, whose twin children — son Randy Jr. and daughter Miranda — are freshmen on the Hiram basketball teams. “It will be a big deal to maneuver through it, so you have to take it game by game.
“Coach (Ken) Sprague, over there at Marietta, always has his girls ready to play. The Westlake girls are strong, and Hillgrove is a tough team from our region with a 6-1 center (Mackenzie Engram) being recruited by LSU. Kell has that big girl, Caliya Robinson, in the middle, so that’s a couple of top-10 type teams right there. We tried to split everybody up, and we hope to be one of those top four teams to make it to Friday and try to advance from there.”
The boys tournament features defending champion Pope taking on Langston Hughes in one half of the bracket, along with Hiram against Washington.
Campbell will host Carver-Atlanta in a portion of the bracket that also includes Banneker and Southwest Atlanta Christian.
“It’s a very competitive field,” said Campbell boys coach James Gwyn, who is one win shy of 400 for his career. “Pope’s having a really good season, and we’re excited that they choose to return every year. Washington was a (Class) AAA final-four team from last year, and Carver has had strong teams in our tournament over the years, so it’s a quality tournament in Georgia, and it’s well-respected. A lot of teams use this as a springboard into the second half of the season.”
That’s exactly what Pope plans to do. The 9-1 Greyhounds are riding a seven-game win streak as they close out the calendar year.
“We always look forward to playing at the Campbell Classic,” coach Pat Abney said. “They always have great teams there and Campbell does a great job putting it together.
“We’re the defending champions, but we lost our two leading scorers from last year, so it’s a different group with some hungry guys looking to step in and make a difference. We’re looking at this tournament as a springboard into the second half of our season.”
The Lake City Classic, in its third year, also features eight-team boys and girls tournaments.
The Allatoona boys will host River Ridge in the one half of the bracket, along with North Clayton and Alexander. The other half has Woodland-Bartow taking on Central Gwinnett and Cambridge going against Marietta.
On the girls side, the defending-champion Allatoona girls will host M.L. King. The winner will face either North Clayton or New Manchester in the semifinals.
Alexander will play River Ridge, and Chestatee, which reached the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state playoffs last year, will play Roswell.
“The first year we had this tournament, we made it to the championship game and lost to Hillgrove,” Allatoona girls coach Michael Taylor said. “We won it last year, and we’re excited that we’ve made it to Year 3.
“Every year, we try to add something, or teams, to make it bigger and better than the last year and I think we’ve done that. We have teams from several different classifications, and we’ll see different styles, which should help us later on down the road.”
The Lady Buccaneers have battled injuries and illness this season, but Taylor’s hoping they will be ready to defend their crown from last year.
“We’re still waiting to hit our stride,” he said. “I’ve had three girls on crutches so far, including my starting point guard, and our center is just coming back from injury.
“We’re still waiting to get healthy. Our team will have some young players on the floor looking to improve. It’s a chance to get three more games in before region play begins and these girls get more experience.”