Locally Speaking

Tight Two Rivers 3A Conference boys basketball race gets rolling

January 24, 2014 

High school basketball season gets back to normal this week after a three-week stretch where classroom matters (i.e. end of semester exams) created long breaks in the schedule. And it’s officially playoff drive time as teams enter the back half of their conference schedules.

One of the most interesting area races is the boys’ race in the Two Rivers 3A Conference, which featured all six teams within a game of first place entering Friday night’s games. Three teams were 2-1 (Triton, Cleveland and Western Harnett) and three were 1-2 (South Johnston, Smithfield-Selma and Corinth Holders). Aside from Western, which won two conference games after losing its first dozen games of the season, every team in the league enters their final six league contests looking for better results.

And there’s really no reason any team in the league couldn’t be in the playoffs come the night of Feb. 17. The league is far from the deepest in the state, but it looks like it will be one of the most competitive. All six teams give you reason to think they could finish with six or seven league wins. (And seven will likely be enough to win a conference championship.) Likewise, a 2-8 or 3-7 finish can’t be ruled out for anybody.

What’s the key to getting on the positive side of that gap for any team? Scoring. Some team is going to find a way to put more points up and that team will likely win the league.

Mudcats headed to Major League camp: Five former Carolina Mudcats have been invited to join the Cleveland Indians Major League spring training camp next month. Invited are shortstop Francisco Lindor, catcher Jake Lowery, outfielder Tyler Naquin, infielder Joey Wendel and catcher/infielder Tony Wolters. All five played with the Mudcats last season.

Lindor, who spent half of the 2013 with the Mudcats, is the Indians’ top-ranked prospect. He hit .306 with Carolina last season with 51 runs scored in 83 games.

Naquin was a first-round selection in the 2012 draft hit .277 with 42 RBIs last season and was a Carolina League All-Star along with Lindor.

Wendle won the 2013 Lou Boudreau Award as the top position player in the Indians’ player development system.Indians’ position players report to camp in Goodyear, Ariz. on Feb. 15.

JCEI baseball brackets set: The pairings for the 2014 Johnston County Easter Invitational prep baseball tournament at South Johnston High School have been announced. The event runs April 12-15.

In first round games on April 12, West Johnston meets Smithfield-Selma at noon and Triton takes on Clayton at 2:30. After the home run derby, Harnett Central meets Cleveland at 5:30 and host South Johnston takes on Bunn at 7:30.

The championship game is April 15 at 7:30.

South Johnston to host Shrine combine: South Johnston High School will host one of five area Shrine Bowl combines for rising seniors on April 26. Registration starts at 9:30 a.m., followed by drills beginning at 10 a.m. (kickers) and 11 a.m. (all other positions). Players will be measured and tested in the vertical jump, 40-yard dash, agility shuttle and bench press reps (185 pounds) and evaluated using position-specific drills. The clinics give players the chance to showcase their skills for potential scholarship offers and possible Shrine Bowl selection.

The cost is $20 per player (cash only). Coaches and fans are admitted free of charge.

Best: 919-524-8895 or cbest@newsobserver.com; Twitter: @dclaybest

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