Prep Notebook: Getting a read as PAC-6 4-A basketball kicks in

Jan. 03, 2013 @ 10:44 PM

Some claim the NBA doesn’t really get going until the Christmas Day games — the real ones, not the video games — are unwrapped.
Along Tobacco Road, the bumper crop of PAC-6 4-A basketball gets harvested after holiday hoops tournaments offer final tune-ups before conference clashes.  
The backstory for tonight’s Northern-Riverside match-up is these two squads crossed paths but never met on the floor in last week’s Tobacco Road Holiday Basketball Invitational at Riverside High School.
Riverside (7-6, 1-0 PAC-6) lost in the championship game, arriving there on a 30-point performance from Pirates guard Al Hughes.
Freakish moves around the rim normally is what Hughes is about, but he showed range from behind the arc and was selected to the all-tournament team after averaging 21 points during the inaugural invitational.
Northern’s Ricky Council II made the all-tourney team, too, averaging 19 points over three games, going off for 32 when his Knights (7-6, 0-2 PAC-6) lost in the consolation game.
Riverside’s Justice Kithcart — a year ago, he was in middle school  — appeared headed for a spot on the all-tournament team, scoring 20 in the opening round.
But Kithcart, the Pirates’ starting point guard, limped off the floor with an injury and was sidelined the rest of the tournament.
Riverside coach Brian Strickland said Thursday said he wasn’t sure if Kithcart would play tonight.
Even if Kithcart can’t go, Northern coach Ronnie Russell might still have trouble on his hands at Riverside if Pirates big men Jordan Jones and Mike Tillotson — both 6-foot-8 — play the way they did during the tournament.
Person coach Charles Dacus was in the stands during the tournament and got a look at Jones stepping out around the free-throw line to knock down jumpers, and Tillotson flushing some mean dunks and swatting shots.
Dacus has his own talented big guy in 6-6 Tyrone Outlaw Jr., who scored 37 last week when the Rockets lost in the consolation round at the Holiday Invitational.
Outlaw makes teams pick their poison, because he can stroke it from deep, but if one of the PAC-6 bigs checks him up top, then he can put the ball on the floor, swing low and finish at the rim.
Person (8-4, 2-0 PAC-6) knocked off both Northern and Southern in games before Christmas and tonight will look to keep it going in the league at home against Hillside.
Hillside (10-3, 1-0 PAC-6) played ball in the City of Durham Holiday Invitational at Mount Zion Christian Academy, ending up in the consolation round and claiming third place.
Point guard De’Shon Self can make things happen for Hillside, but the Hornets’ 12-man rotation means there’s no telling who’ll go off on any given night, Hillside coach Crasten Davis said.
“We’ve got a balanced attack,” Davis said.
Jordan (9-4, 2-0 PAC-6) hosts Southern (5-6, 0-2 PAC-6), which had been beaten by both Hillside and Person before getting in a groove at Cary Academy and winning the Vision Sporting Goods Holiday Invitational, putting away Durham Academy 57-36.
“We’re getting better,” first-year Southern coach Kendrick Hall said.
Hall knows how to get results. Last season, he took the Southern girls’ team that had been accustomed to losing and turned them into winners, guiding the Lady Spartans to the state playoffs.
At Cary Academy, Southern’s Amari Hamilton was the most valuable player in the boys’ bracket, and teammate Isiah Maurice joined him on the all-tournament squad.
 Jordan reserve Josh Thompson emerged as the most valuable player while leading the Falcons to the title in the Lee County Basketball Shootout, a holiday hoops tournament at Sanford’s Lee County High School.
Going back to PAC-6 big men, Jordan senior center Jared Hendryx, a Queens University commit, is 6-8 and he’s got these super long arms and knows how to use them when opponents enter the paint.
East Chapel Hill (8-5, 0-2 PAC-6)) lost in the first round of the Sanford tournament. They don’t play tonight but head to Northern on Tuesday.
 Both Riverside and Jordan beat ECH before the Christmas break, so Wildcats coach Ray Hartsfield will be looking to players Tykeem Woodard and Jake Hilkey to help reverse their conference fortune.
Tonight’s PAC-6 boys’ games start at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of Hillside at Person which begins at 7. Girls' games in the PAC-6 doubleheaders start 1 1/2 hours before the boys' games.
As they say, it’s on!