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Hoops Day a sneak preview
Highlanders' event gives coaches, fans pre-season glimpse
A day of basketball excitement gave the fans and coaches a glimpse of the season to come at the first annual Highlander Hoops Day Monday at St. James Sports Center. While all the games were exciting the intensity peaked when the GISA top two teams, First Presbyterian and Bethesda, went head to head on the court. Joey Bell (wearing white jersey) leaps over a Bethesda Blazer's head for the basket. FPCA took a one point victory. - photo by Photo by Patty Leon/Coastal Courier
The St. James Sports Center was active with slam dunks, fancy lay-ups and a display of the finest young up and coming basketball players in the local and surrounding areas as First Presbyterian Christian Academy hosted their first, of what they hope will become an annual, Highlander Hoops day on Monday.
Squads from Camden County, Bradwell Institute, Fort Stewart's Youth Challenge Academy, Bethesda and FPCA battled against each other giving the fans and coaches a glimpse of what they might expect for their new and returning players next season.
Camden County brought in a squad that was mostly comprised of freshman and sophomores in order to give them some time on the court and get an early start to their practice routines. They finished the day 0-3.
Bradwell brought a mix of varsity and junior varsity players going 2-1 for the day. During their game against the Youth Challenge it was Chris Riley making his debut in a Tigers' uniform that impressed the fans with the 3-point shots. For the Youth Challenge it was team Captain and point guard Tracy Lewis who lead the squad with scoring. Bradwell went on to win 44-30.
Youth Challenge coach Ernie Walthour said he was pleased because the men on his team had accomplished two goals.
"We are excited about this group completing their GED requirements and joining our basketball group and being competitive," he said. "The program is a real good program. Dr. Bob Hughes does a tremendous job as well as Major Miguel Robles. It gives these young men and women a second chance to earn their GED. It gave these guys a means to play some great basketball as well."
"My goal originally was to go in and get my GED and then sit back and chill but when I learned they had a basketball team and I love playing the game so I joined the team," Lewis said. "I grew up on the game it's one of the main sports I play. The 18-year-old point guard said he hopes to join the military and go to Georgia Military College so he can play his other favorite sport, football.
Youth Challenge team finished at 1-1.
As exciting as all the games were the energy level peaked when it was time for Bethesda to play the Highlander team. Bethesda was the favored team to win state last season sitting at number one of the Georgia Independent School Association. But the Highlanders took their crown and the state title. Both teams have a competitive rivalry that spoke volumes when they took their fun summer game to the court and battled it out point for point.
Bethesda took the lead first but there was never more than five points separating the leaders in a back and forth battle to the end. When the buzzer sounded it was FPCA who stood ahead by only one point 48-47.
The coaches knew their kids would try their best to out do each other in this ever growing but well spirited rivalry for top dog.
"I already know that Bethesda is going to come ready and they are probably going to be our biggest obstacle in getting to state," Highlander varsity coach Darrell West said after his victory." It did give us a preview of what is coming. We had a couple of kids that were on our JV and they showed me a lot today on the court. But Bethesda came on strong and they are a scrappy team and Mick is a good coach."
"Obviously FPCA is the team to beat," Bethesda coach Mickey Minick said. "They have everybody back from last year's championship team so we know who the competition is and who to measure ourselves against. They have a heck of a team and a heck of a coach and we know our work is going to be cut out for us."
Minick said it was a good opportunity to get some of his players ready since he lost four seniors last season. He welcomes the competitive spirit between the two schools.
"There is a natural competition between these two teams and even during a summer league game they raised the level of intensity," he said. "It's a little bit different when we play but it's fun and good for the guys and coaches."
Bethesda finished the day 1-2 and FPCA went 3-0. Highlanders Joey Bell and AJ Ansley made the 3s while T.A. Alston, Mike Brown and Hakeem Golden continued to show they are the seniors and juniors to watch next season.
The event proved to be successful and Highlander junior varsity head coach David Linderman said they hope to host another one next year.
"We did want to say thank you to all the schools who came out and to St. James Sports Center for their continued support," he said. "Next year we will try to have it on a Saturday so more of the public can attend."
"We are happy and thankful for all the teams who came out to our first annual Highlander shootout and we especially are thankful for St. James Sports Center," coach West added.  


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