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PREP HOOPS NOTEBOOK: U-Save-It Classic among state's best tournaments

Tournament will feature area’s top teams

Albany High A.D. Archie Chatmon

Albany High A.D. Archie Chatmon

ALBANY — Albany High School boys basketball coach Archie Chatmon couldn’t hide his excitement this week when he spoke of the U-Save-It Basketball Classic that begins today with five games at Albany High.

“This is an exciting time of year, and we’re anticipating a lot of great things,” Chatmon said. “This tournament never disappoints. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Chatmon said the event changed from a tournament format to a “shootout” or round-robin format to bring in some better program across the state. The Classic begins today at 4 p.m. and features all four Dougherty County public schools, as well as local schools Lee County, Early County and Randolph-Clay.

Tradition-rich Statesboro, led by longtime coach Lee Hill, returns, as well as powerhouse programs like Cedar Grove, Lovejoy and North Clayton from metro Atlanta. Manchester rounds out the field.

Chatmon said the format changed a few years ago because when it was played as a tournament, schools that had long driving distances weren’t always able to compete.

“When we had a tournament, you sort of had to limit that to a 50-mile radius,” he said. “But we wanted to showcase some of the great talent across the state as well as seeing how many teams we could showcase. It truly is one of the great tournaments in this state.”

Lee County leads off today’s action, meeting Early County at 4 p.m., followed by the four Dougherty County schools. Westover meets Manchester at 5:30 p.m., Dougherty tackles Statesboro at 7 p.m., while Albany meets Cedar Grove at 8:30 p.m. Monroe and North Clayton meet in the finale at 10 p.m.

On Saturday, six games are on tap beginning at 1 p.m. with Albany meeting North Clayton.

One game to keep an eye on Saturday for local fans is at 7 p.m. as Herald No. 1 Westover tackles No. 4 Randolph-Clay. The Red Devils are led by Herald Super 6er Gary McCrae, who is one of the top players in the event.

The Classic concludes on Monday with six more games, including Albany meeting Randolph-Clay at 1 p.m.

Chatmon said many out-of-town fans keep coming back each year, preserving the uniqueness of the Classic.

“It starts with us trying to get great teams,” he said. “You have the four Albany schools, then schools like Randolph-Clay, Statesboro, North Clayton … those are not going to necessarily always be great teams every year, but they are great programs. Most of the time, they aren’t going to disappoint.”

CHRISTMAS TOURNAMENTS: Many local teams will play in holiday tournaments this weekend and next week as region-play takes a brief hiatus. One of the bigger tournaments is the traditional Thomasville Hoopsfest, which local teams like Bainbridge, Mitchell County and Randolph-Clay will play in.

The Lee County Lady Trojans will travel the farthest, taking part in a tournament in Charleston, S.C. that runs Dec. 27-30.

Most local schools return to action on Jan. 3 with non-region games. But on Jan. 4, several schools will jump back into region play.

One game to keep an eye on as the new year begins is the Herald No. 1 Monroe Lady Tornadoes playing host to No. 2 Randolph-Clay, expected to be one of the top girls games of the season on Jan. 4.

UNBEATEN SEMINOLE FALLS: With Lee County’s boys toppling previously unbeaten Seminole County on Tuesday, only a handful of teams across Southwest Georgia are undefeated.

Calhoun County is the lone boys team still undefeated. The Cougars are 8-0 after beating Early County 72-55 earlier this week.

On the girls side, Herald No. 1 Monroe is 8-0, No. 2 Randolph-Clay is still 5-0 and No. 4 Pelham, which has dominated this season in victories over Mitchell County, Seminole County and Baker County, is 3-0.