Grindstaff Classic provided many exciting moments

By Wes Holtsclaw

   The Arby's Classic may have the best teams, but this past week the Grindstaff Holiday Classic provided one of the best competitive tournaments in the area.
   "It was a good tournament," said Hampton head coach and tournament director Bud Hazelwood, "Probably five or six games decided by five points or less, and that's what we told the fans to start with. The Arby's Classic has better teams and individuals, but we've got better games."
   University High took the championship defeating Whitesburg, Kentucky 68-62 in a contest that went down to the final minute. Junior Buc center Brandon Bradley took the MVP award after flying above all competition with his aerial assault.
   Bradley averaged 19.5 points per game, to go along with his 11.5 boards, 3.6 blocks, and 3.5 dunks. His one-handed reverse slam was the play of the game in the championship.
   Several other players had stellar tournament performances.
   Whitesburg's Bo Cook averaged 25 points each contest for the Yellow Jackets to lead the tournament in overall scoring, while Unaka's Rusty Chambers had a stellar 23 points a game.
   Cloudland's Robbie Tolley averaged 19 a game and North Greene's Aaron Burns totaled 18.
   Whitesburg came in as one of the teams to beat, and showed an offensive prowess that wasn't matched until the final contest. Only returning three players from a state quarterfinal team, the Jackets were strong competition despite their minimal playing expirience.
   Unicoi County opened the tournament on a strong note with a 66-55 victory over Unaka, only to lose to champion University High 56-45. The Blue Devils surprised Hampton with last second heroics from Michael Price to finish third place in the tournament.
   Hampton opened the tournament with a 62-51 victory over North Greene, only to lose 78-72 in a heartbreaker to Whitesburg. The Bulldogs had a different leader each contest, but showed some good things in the play from their youth.
   Despite a loss in the first round, Unaka came up big in their own way in the tournament. Coach Donald Ensor used the tournament to test his squad, and they made the best of it after a dismal first contest. Junior center Josh Jones made the most improvement during the three days, going from four points to 30 by the end.
   North Greene pulled off a big upset during the second round with their last minute 51-50 comeback victory over Cloudland. Dustin Collins had a big showing for the Huskies.
   Cloudland opened the tournament coming back from 21 points to lose by eight to Whitesburg, then fell short with another crushing loss to North Greene. The 'Landers put everything behind them to pull out a confident 51-43 victory over Happy Valley.
   The Warriors got a lot of play to their younger kids in the tournament. Coach Charlie Bayless lost a close three-point game against Unaka on the second night, but got a solid showing from Jordy Harrison on each occasion.
   Next season will present a much better tournament, as each of the rebuilding teams in our area will have solid squads.
   Although nobody won the PT Cruiser, it was still an enjoyable expirience for all.