Published: Feb 12, 2012 03:43 AM
Modified: Feb 13, 2012 09:55 AM
The previous four years of Tri-Nine Conference tournaments have seen mixed results on the boys' side, while the girls tournament has had much less suspense.
In those four years, the conference champ has won the tournament twice - while a 2-seed and 6-seed have won the other two times. Meanwhile, the girls tournament has seen its unbeaten conference champ win the tournament as well in all four cases.
The Tri-Nine tournament is an opportunity for bragging rights and improved state playoff standing. If a team seeded lower than second wins the tournament, they become a 2-seed in the postseason, bumping other Tri-Nine playoff teams down a seed.
Last year, Lee County's boys - a 6-seed - bumped Green Hope, seeded fifth, out of the final automatic bid to the playoffs.
All first-round tournament games are played at the higher seed on Tuesday. Times were not set at press time. Green Hope is the only school to host a boys and girls first-round game.
Green Hope will host Thursday's conference tournament semifinals and Friday's conference championship game.
The Tri-Nine champion Lady Falcons (22-2, 16-0) will have the chance to pull off this year's title at home. The Green Hope girls have a chance to run their 59-game conference winning streak to 62 with a clean sweep of the last three conference tournaments and titles.
"We haven't lost, so I don't know what that's like," junior Ashley Williams said. "We definitely go deeper this year... I think defensively we're a bit stronger this year."
Green Hope's girls open the tournament against 8-seed Fuquay-Varina (3-19, 3-13). The boy Falcons (20-4, 12-4), who have never won a conference tournament, are the 3-seed will play their opener against 6-seed Panther Creek (11-12, 6-10) that same night.
Other girls first-round games pit 7-seed Athens Drive (4-12, 5-19) at 2-seed Holly Springs (17-6, 13-3), 6-seed Middle Creek (12-12, 6-10) at 3-seed Panther Creek (16-7, 12-4) and 5-seed Apex (7-14, 6-10) at 4-seed Cary (13-9, 10-6).
Apex needed a 62-50 win in the season finale against Middle Creek to gain sole possession of the 5-seed.
"This is a big accomplishment for this group to make the state playoffs," said Apex girls coach Jay Huffman. "These girls are the ones who deserve all the credit."
The other boys first-round games include 8-seed Lee County (4-20, 3-13) at conference champ Apex (21-3, 14-2), 7-seed Cary (8-15, 6-10) at 2-seed Middle Creek (16-8, 12-4) and 5-seed Holly Springs (13-11, 8-8) at 4-seed Athens Drive (12-10, 11-5).
So long as Lee, Cary and Panther Creek do not win the tournament, the Holly Springs boys will secure their first-ever spot in the state playoffs.
"It's better than where we've been," said a relieved Holly Springs coach Thurman Jordan on Friday. "We're finally looking from the inside-out."
Season passes will not be accepted for the tournament. Tickets are $6 each.Correspondents Tom Shanahan and Dave Malenick contributed to this report.