All but one local high school basketball team had its ticket to postseason play punched when the final brackets for the NCHSAA state playoffs were released on Sunday.
For three local teams — the Mount Airy girls and both North Surry teams — the announcement was little more than a formality, as all three teams won both the regular-season and conference tournament titles and knew they were bound for a high seed and multiple home playoff games. The Mount Airy boys, East Surry girls, and Surry Central girls also all knew they would be headed to the postseason, and were just waiting to see where they would go.
It was the East Surry and Surry Central boys who were sweating on the high school version of “Selection Sunday.” Both the Cardinals and the Golden Eagles knew they were on the bubble. As it turned out, only one of them made it into the field.
East Surry (10-16) got the nod as one of the last two teams into the field. The Cardinals, who finished in a three-way tie for third place in the Northwest 1A Conference at 6-6, were one of four teams to qualify with the worst 20-game record (9-11). Teams that played more than 20 games were allowed to drop some of them for playoff-seeding purposes. As the 16th seed from the Midwest, East Surry travels to West No. 1 Swain County (22-3) tonight at 7 p.m.
Surry Central, which projected as one of several teams tied for the worst 20-game qualifying record expected to earn a bid, was left out of the 2A field. The Eagles’ season thus ends with a 10-15 record.
The most likely team to make a run for a state championship might be North Surry, which completed its run through the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference with a record of 22-4. The Greyhounds are the state’s second-ranked 2A team according to MaxPreps.com, and they played the toughest schedule of any of the state’s top 25 2A teams (in second was 10th-ranked West Stokes, which played the Hounds three times).
Both the North Surry boys and girls will be in action tonight at home, in a regular-season style doubleheader. The Lady Hounds, who have won 17 straight games in their own right and sport a 21-5 overall record, drew the No. 3 seed in the Midwest and will host West Caldwell (12-11) at 6 p.m. Following that contest, the North boys will take on Draughn (14-11), a team out of the South Mountain Athletic Conference. This is also a 3-14 game, with Draughn as the 14th seed from the East.
North Surry’s Ron King Gym won’t be the only local venue hosting a doubleheader tonight. Over at the Howard Finch Gym at Mount Airy, the Lady Bears, another team with championship aspirations after a 24-2 regular season, will begin their postseason run at 6 p.m. Mount Airy, the state’s second-ranked 1A team according to MaxPreps, will be facing a familiar foe in Elkin. The Lady Elks (9-15) played the Lady Bears twice during the regular season, losing 72-39 on Jan. 18 and 73-40 on Feb. 6. Mount Airy is the No. 2 seed out of the Midwest, while Elkin drew the 15th seed in the West.
Following that game, the Mount Airy boys will take to the floor. The Granite Bears, as Northwest 1A runners-up with a 21-6 record, drew a No. 4 seed and will host Cherryville (12-14) on Tuesday night. The Ironmen finished tied for fifth in the Southern Piedmont 1A this season.
On the positive side of things, the Bears were placed in the opposite end of the regional bracket from NW1A champion Winston-Salem Prep, and won’t meet the top-seeded Phoenix again unless both teams reach the state semifinals.
The East Surry and Surry Central girls both qualified for the playoffs, but only the Lady Cardinals will be able to start at home.
East Surry improved tremendously throughout the course of the season and ended up at 15-10 overall, 7-5 in the NW1A, and while the fourth-place finish didn’t assure them of postseason basketball, the 15 wins overall did, and put them into a home game to boot. The Lady Cardinals and Robbinsville had the same 20-game qualifying mark, but East was the 16th overall seed and the Black Knights, also 15-11, drew the 18th. They will play at 6 p.m. tonight in the East Surry gym.
Surry Central (13-12 overall) drew a 10 seed and will travel to Franklin (19-7) tonight at 6 p.m. The Lady Panthers finished tied for second in the Western NC Athletic Conference during the regular season.
Any teams that advance to the second round will play again on Thursday night. Third-round contests are slated for Saturday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.