Thoughts on Day Two/Three of the 2017 HAECO Invitational Basketball Tournament

On Championship Thursday it will be #1 Seed Greensboro Day School vs. #2 Ben L. Smith on the Men’s side and on the Women’s stage, it is #1 Northwest Guilford vs. #2 Northern Guilford for the girls title…

Good job by the Tournament Committee in selecting their Top Seeds, as they get ready to meet in the Finals on Thursday….The Greensboro Day School boys have won six straight HAECO Tournament Titles and GDS has 15 Titles over all, while Northwest Guilford’s girls have won the three previous HAECO Championships and six HAECOs overall, while NWG has been in the women’s final 12 of the past 16 seasons…Greensboro Day boys in the final, 10 of the past 12 seasons….

This brings up to a tournament thought, and it is, “what about naming The HAECO, The Freddy Johnson Invitational, presented by HAECO, once Coach Johnson decides to retire”….Over 1,000 coaching victories overall and already 15 HAECO Titles, plus Coach Johnson should and could be good for another 10-15 years of coaching at GDS, and when he is done, why not name the tournament in his honor and call it the Freddy Johnson Invitational, presented by HAECO??? You already have the Frank Spencer Classic working/going on in Winston-Salem….Seems like a good idea to me, any takers???

Patrick Wright is right on the coverage for The HAECO, for WFMY NEWS 2 Sports, and Patrick Wright is a graduate of Ben L. Smith High School and the Smith Golden Eagles are going for their 3rd HAECO Men’s Title….The Smith boys got their first HAECO Title back in 1994, when ironically Smith defeated Greensboro Day, 66-61, with Rasean Sinclair the Smith MVP, and Reggie Peace the Smith head coach…

The most recent Smith HAECO Title came back in 2003 when Smith beat the Southwest Guilford Cowboys in the final, 75-56, with MVP Jeremy Clayton and head coach Art Wade….Smith also had the big man back in that day, and that big man was Quinton Goods….Greensboro Day and head coach Freddy Johnson topped Smith in the 2002 finale, in a low-scoring affair 39-33 and K.J. Garland was the MVP for GDS….

Some interesting numbers/names and interesting notes on The HAECO and the teams we will see in the finals for 2017….

The Northern Guilford girls are looking for their first-ever HAECO Tournament Title…The Nighthawks won last season’s NCHSAA 3-A Title and they have won the Conference Regular Season Titles several times over and the same can be said for NG’s Conference tournaments, the Sectional tournaments and Regional Tournaments….But the one thing missing from the Northern Guilford Nighthawks resume is The HAECO Invitational Tournament Title…The Northern Guilford Nighthawks have been in two previous HAECO Final Games, falling both times to Wednesday’s foe, the Northwest Guilford Vikings….NG vs. NWG girls in 2014, NWG takes it 48-38 with Hayley Barber, from NWG, being named the MVP…Last year, in 2016, NWG over NG 48-33……MVP for 2016, from NWG, was Cayla King…..

Elissa Cuane and Liz Kitley might just give you one of the best Big Girl Battles that we have ever seen on the inside, but you might see Bria Gibbs picking up Cunane on defense to allow Kitley more freedom to roam the lane and rebound….But when you have Cunane in the lane, it can be a pain to try and stop her and she usually can find a way to get hers…..Ought to be a good matchup out at the guard spots with Kassie Robakiewicz vs. Lindsay Gauldin….Those two, KR and LG might be a matchup to look for…..NG has speed at guard in Mercedes Wampler and NWG has shooting at guard, in Reagan Kargo….Kitley, Kargo, Gibbs and Gauldin and the plus might be what Northwest gets from guard Hannah Baker…NG has Cunane, Robakiewicz, Wampler, Janelle Henderson and the plus for NG might be what they get/receive from Stephanie Chandler….

Northern and N.C. State signee Elissa Cunane are seeking the HAECO Tournament Title and we will find out Thursday if Northwest Guilford is ready to give it up….

Much credit going out to NG’s Kassie Robakiewicz for reaching the 1,000th point mark in her career this week….This is pretty wild with Robakiewicz hitting for 1.000 on the same team with Elissa Cunane, who is already at 1,000 and to have two 1,000 point scorers on the same team at the same time, in the same class, is to me really something special….That is a lot of points from two players on the same team, at the same time, in the same class…Congrats are on the way and going out to Kassie Robakiewicz, a real class act and from a very strong family….

If Smith wins the boys title on Thursday with an upset victory over #1 seed Greensboro Day, I think you will see Isaiah Bigelow taking how the Men’s MVP award….If Greensboro Day takes the title, I think you will find John Newman III with the HAECO Men’s MVP hardware….

Smith is going to have the length, but GDS is very quick and the Bengals make sound fundamental basketball decisions…Smith can not panic and they must find a way to play through the GDS pressure…..Smith will have to rely heavily on PG Cameron Hayes….Smith has depth with a deep bench and the Smith two bigs, Jaylin Gainey and Jaylen Gamble must be accounted for…..What Jacob Crutchfield, Hayes, Bigelow, Gainey, Gamble and Silas Mason are able to do will be huge for Smith….

How much will the GDS defense allow Smith to do? Tripp Greene has been playing defense like Mean Joe Greene for GDS and with the quick hands and quick feet from John Newman and Will Dillard, GDS has a defense that can flat out suffocate you and nearly kill you, but will Smith see the opening and look to go over the top…6’9 Gainey, 6’8 Gamble, 6’6 Bigelow, 6’2 Hayes, will Smith be able to use this length to their advantage???

GDS has Michael Fowler at 6’9, but if GDS can negate the Smith height advantage by forcing Smith to play chase, GDS could run and defense Smith into a ‘Basketball Coma’…..Smith has to be careful, but the Golden Eagles have to play all out and not let up and not fall behind far and be forced to play catch up all night long…We have not mentioned him until now, but Austin Inge may be a large key for GDS…Inge might be picked up by Smith’s Hayes, or you might see Inge and Jacob Crutchfield locking up….

Whatever the case may be, both HAECO Finals, set for Thursday night have the makings for a couple of Championship Classics…There is going to be a lot of DI talent on that Special Events floor tomorrow night and I for one, can’t wait to see how that talent shows out……

Looking forward to seeing some of the best kids in the county at The HAECO Final on Thursday, at the Greensboro Coliseum……

Some key basketball notes to ponder on this late Wednesday, early Thursday morning…..