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The stage hasn’t been set for a third meeting between varsity boys basketball teams from Greenfield School and Fayetteville Trinity Christian, but the pathway certainly has.
Postseason play begins Tuesday in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A postseason, with boys and girls squads from Greenfield and Community Christian embarking on quests to appear in the championship games Feb. 23 at North Raleigh Christian Academy.
The playoff brackets were released Saturday following meetings of the respective seeding committees, with the Greenfield boys (29-4), regular-season and tournament champions of the 1-A/2-A Coastal Plain Independents Conference, getting the No. 1 seed. Greenfield received a bye into the second round and will face the winner of Lee Christian (2-23) and Hobgood Academy (21-5) on Thursday at home. Trinity Christian (19-9), which lost twice to Greenfield in the regular season, is the No. 2 seed.
Getting a home game in Tuesday’s opening round is Community Christian (14-11), who will face Pantego Terra Ceia in an unseeded first-round contest at 7 p.m. inside Barney Williamson Gym on the campus of Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf.
In the girls’ bracket, both Greenfield and CCS will play on Tuesday, with the Lady Knights getting a home game. Greenfield, the second-place finisher in the CPIC (14-7), opposes Lee Christian (6-16) in the first round. The Lady Cyclones (7-16) will take to the road, opposing Lawrence Academy (14-10). A Greenfield-CCS matchup is possible in the second round, with the teams in the same area of the girls bracket.
FINALLY NO. 1
While a human seeding committee had no trouble assigning Greenfield the No. 1 seed after its two victories over Trinity in the regular-season, the computers were a little slower to act.
But last week, MaxPreps, via its secret formula of ranking public and private school teams from across the country, finally elevated the Knights to the No. 1 position among NCISAA 1-A members.
Greenfield, bidding for its fifth state championship, is a combined 11-0 against teams in the 1-A bracket and is junior oriented. With the departure of Coby White — the state’s all-time leading scorer — to UNC, the Knights have arguably become more difficult to guard collectively as the junior class has seen their respective games mature. The additions of Creighton Lebo, Collin Guilford and Jordan Lynch have become integral parts of the Knights’ rotation, but names such as senior Bryson Baker, Jacari Outlaw, Trey Pittman and Dji Bailey — the latter three being juniors — have returned to the varsity roster and increased their on-floor presence.
“They’ve really matured,” Greenfield head coach Rob Salter said. “That core from last year has got the experience in the big-time moments. They knew it was their time, even after that difficult loss (Trinity 2018), and they’ve done it. They’ve been the leaders as the new guys have come in. “We’re going to relay on their experience in the big games.”
Bailey, who recently reported an offer from Wake Forest University, is back with the team after missing several contests.
Should Greenfield and Trinity meet for the championship, the Knights will be trying to break a dubious streak against the Crusaders. Trinity has won the last five playoff meetings, including victories in the title game last season and in 2014.
ITCHING FOR A RUN
In the case of the CCS boys, its bid for the 1-A/2-A Coastal Independents Conference championship came up short after the Cyclones lost to Kerr-Vance Academy in the regular-season finale.
That, in the words of first-year head coach Kenneth Atkinson, left the Cyclones hungry for more.
They’ll have the chance to win the school’s first playoff game since 2013, which doubles as the last time the Cyclones made the playoffs.
Junior Jimmy Forte, who reclassified this season, leads the Cyclones in scoring at 31.5 points per game and just over seven rebounds each time out. A big boost for CCS will come in the form of 6-foot-8 freshman Eric Wynn, who is back with the team after missing several games. Eli Eger, a freshman, has exhibited an improved stroke from beyond the 3-point line.
Should the Cyclones beat Terra Ceia, No. 3 Fayetteville Northwood Temple awaits in the second round.
SMALL BUT CAPABLE
When the Greenfield girls opened their regular season on Nov. 13 at Wilson Christian, the numbers weren’t exactly in head coach Bruce Wall’s favor. Not counting emergency middle school call-ups, the Lady Knights reported for duty with just six players. The odds of finishing the season weren’t at 100 percent.
But the Lady Knights persevered, and behind dynamic guard play from junior Kaelyn Wall and seventh grader Serenity McNair, Greenfield, at 14-7, has a winning record for the first time since the 2010-11 season, when it reached the NCISAA 1-A semifinals. The Lady Knights are back in the postseason for the second straight year after finishing second in the CPIC behind 2-A archrival Wayne Country Day.
Jeallen Holland, an eighth grader, gives Greenfield a capable outside shot to complement the ball handing of Wall and McNair. Inside, senior Sumer Hassan is a threat to corral double-digit rebounds.
LADY CYCLONES PLAY ON
Coming off a forfeit loss to Kerr-Vance Academy in the quarterfinals of the CIC tournament, the Lady Cyclones get into the playoff act Tuesday night at Lawrence Academy. Consistent offense has been a source of woe for short-handed CCS, which was beaten 59-15 by KVA to close the regular season with just six players at its disposal. CCS’s season-high point total came in a 37-7 blitzing of ENCSD back in December. The forfeit took place after the mother-in-law of CCS athletic director Bryan Walker passed away, and the team decided to show support to Olivia Walker, a sophomore guard on the Lady Cyclones.
Tuesday’s game at Lawrence will be a rematch of the regular season, where the Lady Cyclones were defeated 37-15 on Nov. 26 in Barney Williamson Gym.
Assistant coach Warren Bissette will lead the team for the fourth game after Shannon Jefferson stepped down from the position. CCS is now on its third head coach in 2018-19.
“We’ve played Lawrence before, so we’re pretty familiar with them,” Bissette said. “It’s a good draw for our team.”
Six of CCS’s eight rostered players are sophomores, with Micheala Lee and Cheyenne Gardner the only juniors.
“We’ve been working more on a give-and-go offense,” Bissette said. “More passing without the ball and we’re hoping our offensive schemes work better. Hopefully, we’ll generate more and be able to go to the free-throw line. It will be a different coaching style than what (Lawrence) saw last time.”