No rest for county's best girls, boys teams

Another week, another stacked tournament field for the Collins Hill girls and the Norcross boys basketball teams.

Both teams, who are coming off tough championship losses in their previous tourneys, will be playing in the prestigious Bojangles High School Basketball Shootout today in Charlotte, N.C.

Collins Hill, ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today, takes on Harding High School at 1 p.m. in the Charlotte Latin School gym, while the Norcross boys go up against Laurinburg Institute at 7:30 p.m. at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena.

It's the second year in a row Collins Hill has participated in the tournament - the Eagles lost in the championship game last year to St. John's College High School (Md.) - and it will be another great test for Tracey Tipton's team.

"Our purpose in going to both of these tournaments was to learn a lot about ourselves and where we are as far as being one of the best teams in the nation," she said. "And our second motive in going and playing these tough tournaments is to help us prepare for the state tournament."

The Eagles certainly found out last week at the Nike Tournament of Champions that they were one of the top squads in the country. They won their first three games in the Phoenix tournament, including two victories against nationally ranked teams, to set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown with Christ the King (N.Y.) in the championship round.

Collins Hill lost 79-75 in overtime, thanks in large part to a controversial call on star forward Maya Moore, who deflected a loose ball with her fist and was whistled for a technical (her fifth foul of the game).

Despite coming so close to winning one of the best girls high school basketball tournaments ever organized - 12 of the 16 teams were nationally ranked - Tipton says her team won't come into the Bojangles Shootout overconfident.

The Eagles know there will be some tough challenges over the next three days.

"We realize that we've got to go out there and work just as hard, if not harder," Tipton said. "We're not going to be overconfident just because we finished second in the Nike Tournament of Champions. We realize we're going to have to play our very best to go out there and win the tournament."

So will the Norcross boys.

The Blue Devils, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAA, are coming off a tough 64-60 loss to Charlotte Christian in the championship game of the Chick-fil-A Classic in Columbia, S.C. Now Norcross must face a loaded field that includes some of the top players in the country.

Every roster in the national field seems to have multiple Division-I caliber players, including The Episcopal Academy (Pa.), which features two of the top players in the country in Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson. Ellington signed with North Carolina and Henderson inked with Duke.

If Norcross wins its first two games of the tournament, which is a big 'if' in an event like this, the Blue Devils could very well match up with Episcopal for the championship.

Either way though, the Blue Devils will have some hometown support for their games.

Tipton said the Collins Hill girls will try to make it a point to cheer on the Norcross boys whenever they get the chance over the next three days.

Last year, during the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA state playoffs, the Norcross fans rallied around the Collins Hill girls - who were trailing at the time to Marietta - and gave them an emotional lift in their comeback win.

Tipton hopes maybe her team and fans can return the favor somewhat this week.

"The thing you can say about our kids and fans, we're going to support all the Georgia teams," said Tipton. "Out in Phoenix, our fans were supporting Stephenson. And as a coach myself, I think the world of Eddie Martin, so I'm always pulling for his team, unless of course he's playing our boys."

The Collins Hill boys actually will be participating in the Bojangles Shootout as well this week, though they will be playing in a different bracket than the Norcross boys. The Eagles open up with Victory Christian today at 10:45 a.m. at the Charlotte Latin School.