The 2022 edition of the Farris & Thomas Holiday Tournament at Beddingfield High saw tight finishes and clutch performances, with the Beddingfield girls and Southern Nash boys emerging as champions, and Jordan Vick and Daneesha Briggs claiming MVP honors.
Here’s a look at the two all-tournament teams, as well as some other notes from this year’s Yuletide dribblefest.
BOYS ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Champion Southern Nash’s Vick, tabbed the most valuable player in the four-team field, is joined by teammates Thomas Copeland and Israel Whitaker on the seven-player unit.
Runner-up Hunt landed a pair of 6-foot-4 juniors in Drew Pittman and Alex Speight.
Completing the elite 2022 cast are Zimire Avery of third-place Beddingfield and 6-4 senior Jacob Willingham of Fike, the only team to go winless at 0-2.
Vick a 6-foot, 160-pound junior who has committed to East Carolina University of the NCAA Division I ranks, emerged the top boys’ scorer with 39 points in two games. His 29 points in the semifinals was the top single-game effort.
The runner-up to Vick was Fike’s Willingham, a 6-4 senior, with 31. He fired in 25 points and claimed a tournament-high 14 rebounds in his team’s semifinals loss.
Southern Nash’s Copeland, who nailed the championship winning 3-point shot, emerged No. 3 with 28 points. Then came Hunt’s Pittman at No. 4 with 27; and teammate Speight with 26
Other two-game scoring totals were Beddingfield’s Avery, a junior, with 22 points; and the Firebirds’ Israel Whitaker, a sophomore, with 19.
Rebounding statistics were incomplete but for two-games among all-tourney selections, Speight and Vick surfaced as the front-runners with 16 each. Pittman finished with 12 and Copeland claimed nine.
GIRLS ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Champion Beddingfield’s Briggs was joined on the team by her teammates, Pinky Marshall and TJ Harris.
Hunt’s Kayla Haley was the tournament’s leading scorer, as she turned in one of the best performances the holiday classic has seen for the Warriors, who fell to Fike in the semis before claiming third place with a win over Southern Nash. Haley posted a whopping 70 points in two games, with 39 in the loss to Fike and 31 against the Ladybirds. Haley notched double-doubles in both games, pulling down 10 boards against Fike and 16 against Southern Nash. It was a memorable performance for Haley in her final tournament, and, if Hunt is going to turn around its 2-8 start and return to the 3-A state playoffs, it’s going to need more performances like that from its senior forward.
For runner up Fike, Jewel Brewington and Jamaria Freeman have been a lethal back-court duo all season. Freeman posted 47 total points in the two games, including 28 in the win over Hunt, to go with 21 rebounds and seven assists, while Brewington notched 29 points. That duo will be key to Fike’s aspirations of winning the 3-A Quad County Conference.
For Beddingfield, point guard Marshall tallied a combined 15 points while running the floor for the Bruins, while Marshall combined for 14, hitting a big 3 early in the fourth quarter of the championship game to put the Bruins up seven.
Southern Nash point guard Jermia Walker rounds out the all-tournament team. She led the fourth-place Ladybirds in scoring in both games, combining for 37 points.
FIREBIRDS SNAP VISITOR DROUGHT
When the NCHSAA’s realignment ahead of last season separated Southern Nash from previous conference foes Hunt and Fike, Firebirds athletics director/boys basketball coach Robbie Kennedy was quick to ask if Southern Nash could join the holiday tournament as a way to play close to home and maintain some local rivalries.
It didn’t take the Firebirds long to make their mark, as the Southern Nash boys captured their first Farris & Thomas championship in just their second year in the event.
Southern Nash’s victory, which came in dramatic fashion on a last-second 3-pointer from Thomas Copeland, snaps a lengthy drought for visiting boys teams, as the Firebirds are the first out-of-county champion since C.B. Aycock in 1994.
The Firebirds are the eighth team to win a boys championship in Wilson’s Christmas tournament, joining the Golden Falcons, Northern Nash, Lee County and Rocky Mount as previous out-of-county champions.
Southern Nash will be targeted by Hunt, Beddingfield and Fike in the Fike High gym for the 2023 Farris & Thomas Holiday Tournament shortly after Christmas.Fike will be the first obstacle.
Gritty Hunt junior Drew PIttman admitted the finish to last Thursday night’s boys championship game was totally unexpected. But realistically, who could have expected such a scene to unfold amid ultimate drama?
Pittman had the task of defending Copeland. He had a tough, tough decision to make. He chose to leave Copeland and join his teammates in stopping Jordan Vick’s advance into the frontcourt.
Vick didn’t attempt a shot but, instead, whisked a pass to senior Daaray Lynch. Lynch handled the pass and promptly spotted Copeland wide open in the right corner. Copeland received Lynch’s pass and unleashed the winning 3-point shot with less than three seconds remaining.
“Not at all did I expect that,” Pittman said. I thought it was too big a moment for him to hit it …he hit it. He had been on fire all night.”
NO CHANCE FOR HUNT
With less than three seconds remaining after Copeland’s 3-pointer bombed the Firebirds into the lead at 64-63, Hunt, realistically, had no chance to regroup and retaliate.
Stunned players were scrambling under the Southern Nash basket and the Warriors were out of time-outs.
No chance to pull off an even more unlikely feat and win a fifth straight championship in the 46th boys edition. But Hunt did advance into the championship game for an astounding 16th consecutive year.
Members of the Southern Nash team had just begun to celebrate when a commotion broke out upstairs in the balcony seating area. Not only law enforcement but Southern Nash players hurried up the stairs. The fracas was soon quietened and with no physical consequences. But everyone in the near-capacity crowd was affected by the incident.
Spectators were instructed to vacate the gym and promptly did so. The 2022 Farris & Thomas Holiday Tournament was suddenly over. Preparation for the awards ceremony ceased.
Those in attendance departed without learning who was voted the most valuable player and who landed spots on the all-tournament team. Neither were the team trophies presented.
Southern Nash’s Vick, the MVP, was presented his plaque in the locker room.
BRUINS DELIVER ON HOME COURT
Beddingfield had to be viewed as the favorite, if slight favorite given Fike’s prowess, going into this tournament, given a strong team led by Briggs, and playing in its home gym. The Bruins came through with a back-and-forth victory over Fike in the title game. The rubber match between two of the top girls basketball teams in the county lived up to its billing, as each team had previously won on its home court.
The championship was Beddingfield’s first since 2014. That victory also came against Fike, as the Bruins won 53-36 on the Demons’ home court. It’s Beddingfield’s first home championship since a 72-64 win over Fike in 2009, and just the 15th championship for a host school in tournament history.
It’s Beddingfield’s 12th championship, widening the Bruins’ lead over third-place Hunt (seven), and moving them eight back of Fike’s 20 titles. Eight of the Bruins’ 12 championships have come via wins over Fike.
EASY AND FLUID
At times during Fike’s girls games, Jamaria Freeman, only a sophomore and age 15, performs on the court like a college player among those from the high school ranks.
She can make the game look so easy – and does so in fluid fashion. She’s not only a skilled guard but tough-minded, physical and extremely talented. She thoroughly understands the game and plays it with savvy.
Surprisingly, Freeman credits not brothers or boys in the neighborhood or the gym, but her father’s impact and “older people.”
Her basketball career began with hard work and more hard work in the eighth grade and “the places my father put me in to teach me to keep my poise.”
“He wanted me to show that I was not just young but good enough to be with older people and play with older people.”
Freeman was good enough in the 42nd girls tournament that she would most likely have been declared the MVP if Fike had won the championship.
“IT WAS GREAT”
Jody O’Neal, Beddingfield’s athletic director, golf coach and head girls basketball coach, chose the words “it was good” to describe the 2022 Farris & Thomas Holiday Tournament that was hosted by Beddingfield.
“We had good crowds, good games and good matchups,” he said.
Tickets sold totaled nearly 2,000. Southern Nash not only received the boys championship trophy but $1,000 for its appearance.
Net proceeds for each of the county schools have not been announced. O’Neal also reported the concession area was busy each of the three nights.
O’Neal especially thanked sponsors Farris & Thomas.
“Farris & Thomas gives us a boost,” he commented. “We certainly could not do what we do without them. We also appreciate everybody that had a hand in putting on the tourney.”
Mentioned were Daniels Chapel Church volunteers, Ed Hunter, a Beddingfield teacher and coach, in the role of public address announcer; SRO leader Felicia Simmons and Felicia Bulluck, responsible for hospitality.
Fike High will be the venue for the 2023 holiday bash and O’Neal said: “I’m glad it rotates.”
OVERLOOKED BUT EFFICIENT
These individuals are likely to go overlooked, but certainly were efficient in enhancing the tournament’s progression for three nights.
Deserving a “thank you” and recognition for a job well done are the scorekeepers – Gloria Mendoza-Abarca of Beddingfield, junior McKenzie Kennedy of Southern Nash, junior Ron McNeil of Hunt and sophomore Aleah Thompson and Fike graduate Asia Yelverton of Fike.