Going into last week’s conference basketball tournaments, the Mount Airy boys and girls, the East Surry girls and the North Surry girls knew they were going to be in the state playoffs. The Surry Central girls and the North Surry boys weren’t sure if they would fall on the “good” side of the line or not.
As it turned out, all six had their dance cards punched, and five of them will begin their quest for a state championship tonight. The Mount Airy girls, ranked No. 1 in the state’s 1A ranks by MaxPreps, the Associated Press, and NCpreps, earned the top overall seed in the West Regional and a bye into Thursday’s second round. The Lady Bears (22-2) will host either South Davidson or Alleghany on Thursday.
The male Granite Bears are the only local team which will begin the playoffs at home tonight, and they will do so against a familiar foe. Mount Airy (16-8) is the 16th seed in the West and will host league rival Bishop McGuinness (18-8), the state’s sixth-ranked team, tonight at 6:30 p.m.
These teams are of course very familiar with one another, and the Bears won both regular-season meetings, topping the Villains 73-63 on Jan. 24 and then winning 62-53 in Kernersville exactly two weeks ago. They are two of the four Northwest 1A Conference teams ranked in MaxPreps’ 1A top six, and the winner will get top-ranked and top-seeded Winston-Salem Prep (22-3) on Thursday.
North Surry’s girls made headlines last week when they charged through the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference tournament and won the title by beating regular-season co-champions Forbush and Atkins on back-to-back nights. The win over the Camels improved the Lady Greyhounds’ record to 15-12, but didn’t earn them a first-round home game. North will travel to Salisbury (19-5), the Central Carolina 2A runners-up, tonight at 6. The teams have no common opponents and didn’t play each other during the season, but the Lady Hounds may have the edge in momentum. While North Surry is coming in off a league tournament title and has won eight out of nine games, the Hornets lost their last two games, falling at arch-rival South Rowan in the regular-season finale with a chance to win the conference title, and then bowing out in the first round of the conference tournament as well.
Salisbury has a higher MaxPreps rating (16th in 2A vs. 25th for North) and the home-court advantage, but the Lady Hounds have the edge that they are clearly peaking at the right time. In the seedings, this is a 13 vs. 20 matchup, and the winner will either travel to East Burke or host R-S Central on Thursday.
North Surry’s boys also got into the postseason and will have a chance to defend their West Regional title. However, they will have to do so from the 30th overall seed in the West. The Greyhounds (9-16) travel to third-seeded East Lincoln (22-5), the champions of the South Fork Conference, tonight at 7 p.m.
Similarly to the North girls, the boys are facing a team they didn’t meet in the regular season and have no common opponents with. East Lincoln beat Lincolnton by two games for the SFC title, and then lost by two points to the Wolves in their conference tournament final. The Mustangs are currently ranked as the No. 9 team in 2A by MaxPreps.
If the Hounds pull the upset, they will travel to either Draughn or Lexington in the second round.
The Surry Central girls are facing a familiar foe in their playoff opener. As the fourth-place team in the WPAC, Central (16-10) wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the field, but made it fairly easily, as the 23rd seed. However, this means they have to travel for a third showdown with regular-season co-champ Forbush (21-4) tonight at 6:30. The Falcons won both regular-season meetings, beating Central 66-57 three days before Christmas, and then downing them 81-62 on Jan. 30 in East Bend. Forbush, the state’s seventh-ranked 2A team per MaxPreps, had lost only to East Wilkes, Mount Airy and Atkins before falling to North Surry in the conference tournament semifinals.
The winner of this game will either host East Henderson or travel to East Rutherford on Thursday night.
The East Surry girls also knew they were safely into the field despite losing their last three games of the regular season and conference tournament. The Lady Cardinals (13-12) travel to Pine Lake Prep (18-8) tonight at 6 p.m. in the 14-19 seed game. Despite the fact that the Pride has a better overall record, East Surry’s MaxPreps rating is significantly higher. As with a number of other first-round games, the teams neither met during the season or even played any common opponents.
Pine Lake finished second to Union Academy in the PAC-7 Conference this season and then lost in its tournament semifinals to Community School of Davidson.
The winner of this game travels to Murphy (24-2) on Thursday, the Smoky Mountain Conference champion and one of the favorites to challenge Mount Airy’s bid for a repeat championship.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.