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Strong, diverse field highlights Deep South Classic

DEEP SOUTH CLASSIC

What: 22nd Annual Deep South Classic

Where: Brookwood High School

Thursday’s schedule:

GIRLS

3 p.m. — Harrison vs. Creekside (Maroon Gym)

4:30 p.m. — Hebron Christian vs. Model (Gold Gym)

6 p.m. — Brookwood vs. East Coweta, (Maroon Gym)

7:30 p.m. — Sequoyah vs. North Oconee (Gold Gym)

BOYS

3 p.m. — Duluth vs. Hebron Christian (Gold Gym)

4:30 p.m. — Harrison vs. Creekview (Maroon Gym)

6 p.m. — Sequoyah vs. North Oconee (Gold Gym)

7:30 p.m. — Brookwood vs. East Coweta (Maroon Gym)

In a way, the 22nd annual Deep South Classic can be considered to be going back to its roots somewhat when the tournament tips off Thursday at two gymnasiums at Brookwood High School.

While Gwinnett County will still be well represented by the host Broncos and Hebron Christian in the girls bracket and Brookwood, Hebron and Duluth on the boys side, the rest of the field will be made up of a diverse group of teams from around north Georgia.

"I think it's good for the kids (to see different teams)," Brookwood boys coach Daniel Bowles said. "You get tired of seeing the same teams. You like to see different teams and different styles of play."

And both brackets will feature teams with a history of success.

On the boys side, there is Harrison, a Final Four team from the state's highest classification a year ago, as well as other state tournament qualifiers in 2010 Deep South champion Sequoyah, Creekside and Hebron.

Still, Bowles sees this tournament as a major opportunity for his Broncos (8-2) who have already passed their win total from last year, when a young team finished just 6-20.

"(The tournament) is one the kids take pride in," Bowles said. "It's something they always look forward to, and they're not scared to play some good teams.

"We played a lot of young kids last year, but we lost 10 games by seven points or less. So, the kids have been there before, and I think that's what's making a difference for us this year."

Likewise, Duluth (7-4) has a chance to continue the step forward it has taken this season, needing just one win in the tournament to match its win total for all of last season.

Still, head coach Eddie Hood doesn't want his Wildcats to merely be satisfied with how far they've come.

"To be really honest, we're a little ahead of schedule," Hood said. "We just feel like once we execute and get a little better, we'll be able to build some momentum going in the second half (of the season) and we'll make a push.

"Brookwood's having a great season. Sequoyah's really good. Hebron was pretty good last year. There's some good competition, but I think it's a pretty even field, so it's wide open. It'll be a good chance to see where we stack up against some other (good) teams."

The girls bracket also figures to be quite competitive, with four state tournament qualifiers from a year ago, including Class AA powerhouse Model, as well as Harrison from Class AAAAAA, Creekside from AAAAA and North Oconee from AAA.

But while winning their own tournament is definitely a goal for Brookwood's girls, there are also other priorities.

The Broncos (7-3) have had to adjust to the loss of starting point guard Lesley Holbrook to a season-ending knee injury.

And coach Scott Terry admits making those adjustments will be an important focus this weekend.

"We're at a point where we're having to rediscover ourselves," Terry said. "We've moved Courtney Gardner to the point, and ... we're using the tournament almost like more preseason games to learn some new roles."