Deep South Classic continues to take on more local flavor

At 20 years old, the Deep South Classic is one of metro Atlanta's longest-running holiday high school basketball tournaments.

While the numbers and general makeup of the field have changed over the years, the tradition of extremely competitive basketball remains as the 21st edition of the tournament tips off today at Brookwood High School.

Since the event was scaled back to a three-day event made up of eight teams each in 2008, those competitive fields on both the boys and girls brackets have been entirely made up of teams from Georgia.

This year's field is even further localized, with the girls bracket made up entirely of teams from metro Atlanta and the boys bracket also comprised primarily of metro teams, with the exception of Flowery Branch from nearby Hall County and Richmond Academy from the Augusta area.

"Last year was pretty much an all-metro tournament, with the exception of Northwest Whitfield, which came down (from the North Georgia mountain)," Brookwood girls coach Scott Terry said. "When we made the change from a 16-team (in each bracket) tournament to a more traditional format, we intentionally focused on more local teams. Fortunately, it has not (diminished the competitiveness). A lot of that is the reputation of the tournament itself.

"It's produced some good champions over the years and seen some great individual players and teams on both the boys and girls sides. It's still one of the strongest tournaments in the area."

Indeed, both brackets feature formidable teams.

On the boys side, the bracket features a strong Class AAAAA contender in North Cobb (7-3), an equally strong AAA team in Alcovy (7-2), traditionally strong programs in Decatur, Richmond Academy and Flowery Branch, as well as local teams Brookwood, Colilns Hill and Providence Christian.

Brookwood boys coach Daniel Bowles knows his Broncos, which have struggled to a 2-9 start after three losses in Ohio last week, will have their work cut out for them.

However, he is also certain that the pride his players feel by hosting the tournament will bring out the best in them.

"The Deep South has always been a big deal," said Bowles, who played in the Deep South Classic as a player before his graduation from Brookwood in 1998. "These kids, they grew up knowing it was a big deal. Even if they don't win it, to play well is a big goal for them."

The girls bracket may be even more challenging, with three current state-ranked teams -- AAAAA teams Hillgrove (No. 5) and North Cobb (No. 6) and AA's Decatur (No. 7) -- heading it up, along with local teams Brookwood, Collins Hill and Providence, plus north Fulton representatives Chattahoochee and Northview.

And while the host and defending tournament champion Broncos are still finding themselves after a 5-6 start, Terry is hopeful his team can use this week's tournament as a springboard for when Region 8-AAAAA play picks back up after the New Year.

"One of our goals is to defend the Deep South championship, and we know we're going to have our work cut out for us," Terry said. "This year, we're looking to use it as a final tune-up for region play."