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Basketball: North Forsyth hosts annual early season tournament
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North Forsyth will host its annual early season tournament, the Progressive Lighting Holiday Classic, starting Saturday and ending Tuesday. - photo by File photo

For Eric Herrick’s recent North Forsyth girls basketball teams, the Lady Raiders’ annual early-season tournament – this time called the Progressive Lighting Holiday Classic – has been a first dress rehearsal for the region tournament to come later.

But not this time.

North (2-0) will use the annual event of eight girls and boys teams playing over three days to explore its identity and develop chemistry with a roster blending experience and youth in hopes of returning to the state playoffs.

“With our more experienced groups, we approach it like a region tournament,” Herrick said, “where we’re playing a bunch of games in a few days. Very few times in the season you get to simulate that where you take every game extremely serious, a ton of scouting.

“But with a young team, it’s just early season basketball games.”

Sure, North returns most of its core from its team last season that went 18-7, led by Bella Caracciolo, Amber Jones and Cassie Markle. But the Lady Raiders are also incorporating a wave of young talent. Case in point: freshman Caroline Martin led North with 17 points in its 55-44 win against Lumpkin County this past Tuesday. Markle was next with 10.

There’s the potential for North to get plenty of challenges in a deep field of girl teams. If the Lady Raiders get past Johns Creek on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., they’d face either St. Pius, a traditional playoff contender in Class 4A, or Northview, led by Shannon Titus, one of the state’s top prospects.

The other side of the bracket features Cherokee, Creekview and Dawson County, teams that won a combined 71 games and advanced in the state playoffs last season.

And North would love to return to the tournament’s championship. The Lady Raiders missed out last season after winning the event in 2014 and 2015.

“We talk about it all the time – there are very few opportunities to win a championship during the season,” Herrick said, “so we always want to win.”

Progressive Lighting Holiday Classic

When: Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, games start at 9:30 a.m.

Where: North Forsyth High School

Who: Boys – Alpharetta (11-18 last season), Cherokee (12-14), Creekview (16-10), Dawson County (24-5), North Forsyth (9-16), Northview (8-18), St. Pius (24-7). Girls – Alpharetta (7-18), Cherokee (24-6), Creekview (23-6), Dawson County (24-5), Johns Creek (6-19), North Forsyth (18-7), Northview (16-13), St. Pius (17-11).