The Bojangles Basketball Bash made its debut last year at Ridge View High as a low-key, two-day, six-team affair.
The early holiday season hoops festival proved so successful that Blazers coach John Combs, with increased Bojangles backing, has expanded the showcase to 13 teams and 11 games over three days beginning on Thursday.
“We couldn’t be happier with the support we’re getting from Bojangles and the level of competition we have coming in this year,” said Combs.
“Bojangles gave us the resources to make this a first-class event, and we think we can become another venue for Midlands fans to watch high-level teams come to Columbia to challenge some of our best local teams.”
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The second-year field is a significant upgrade over the inaugural, which featured one out-of-state team.
Combs has lured Carlisle School (Va.), Collins Hill (Ga.), Zion Lutheran (Fla.) and Northside Christian Academy (Charlotte) to Bash II, along with Midlands entries Spring Valley, A.C. Flora, Dreher, Keenan, Cardinal Newman and first-year Gray Collegiate Academy. Instate squads Northwestern and Chesnee round out the roster.
Carlisle and Zion Lutheran are the only teams with three games in three days.
Carlisle, which went 33-10 and won the Virginia AA Independent state championship, features three coveted college recruits in 6-foot-7 senior Kaleb Johnson, 6-4 junior Quenton Jackson and 6-3 sophomore Blake Harris.
Zion Lutheran features Keith Stone, a 6-8 senior who is committed to Florida.
Northside Christian, which has won three straight North Carolina AA independent titles, has a Saturday date with reigning Class 3A state champion A.C. Flora. Rayjon Tucker is the spotlight player for Northside Christian.
The Keenan-Dreher rivalry closes the event on Saturday. Dreher and Tevin Mack square off against Stone and Zion Lutheran on Friday.
Combs believes the Bojangles Bash will continue to evolve as a blue-chip event, but will not be in direct competition to Chick-fil-A at Richland Northeast.
“Technically, this is not a tournament; it’s what we call a showcase,” said Combs. “These are regular-season games, so we can have a Spring Valley, with a top player like Perry Dozier Jr., or a Northside Christian come in for one game.”