High school hoops junkies can get their fill this week. The Times Free Press's annual three-day basketball-fest is fast approaching.
The Best of Preps tournament at Arts & Sciences tips off Wednesday morning at 10 with Chattanooga Christian taking on Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe in the first of four consecutive girls' games. The second game, scheduled at 11:30, has GPS playing East Hamilton.
"We like the atmosphere, and the fact that it's home and we don't have to travel," said GPS coach Susan Crownover, whose team has competed in all six and last year won the local Christmas holiday tournament. "It's well-attended, and it beats the heck out of practice. It's fun to try to win something, instead of just playing extra games. If someone is a basketball enthusiast, I think it's a good tournament."
The first of four boys' games will be defending champion Red Bank facing the host Patriots at approximately 4 p.m. First-day action concludes with Tyner playing Ooltewah in a game scheduled for 8:30.
The other first-round boys' games are Baylor vs. Notre Dame at about 5:30 and McCallie vs. Cleveland at approximately 7.
"It's tough to avoid a good team," Cleveland coach Jason McCowan said. "It really looks like all eight teams are capable of making it to the championship."
The Class AAA Blue Raiders' only other Best of Preps appearance was in 2007 when it was at McCallie. However, McCowan watched as the Lady Raiders competed in last year's tournament at CSAS.
"The thing I like is I just think it's a great atmosphere," McCowan said. "CSAS is pretty tight, like our gym. People are close to the floor, which is pretty intriguing to me. It's a holiday tournament with a lot of buzz.
"Chattanooga has a lot of pride, and we're a school just outside Hamilton County. This tournament gives us a chance to compete with some Chattanooga schools that are either Class AA or private that wouldn't normally be on our schedule."
The afternoon girls' games scheduled to start at approximately 1 and 2:30 are Cleveland vs. Tyner and Baylor vs. Northwest Whitfield.
Eight games will also take place Thursday and Friday starting at 10 a.m. Semifinals are Thursday with girls' games scheduled at 4 and 7 and boys' games at 5:30 and 8:30. Seventh-, fifth- and third-place games will be played Friday before the girls' championship set for 7 and the boys' final set for 8:30.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.