James Bridges III cherishes every opportunity to don a Clark (Nev.) uniform.
As much as he plays for the name on the front of his jersey, the Chargers’ senior standout has added reason to play for the one on the back as well.
This past August, the 6-3 guard lost his father, James Bridges III, following a lengthy battle with cancer.
Not only did he lose his father, the younger Bridges said he also lost his No. 1 fan – a sentiment shared by his younger brother, Jack, a freshman contributor on the Clark basketball team.
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Commonly referred to as “a glue guy” for his Clark teammates, the younger Bridges found it tough in the days and weeks after to keep himself from falling apart.
“At first, it was really hard,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was doing … I was absolutely lost.”
Whenever he feels out of sorts these days, Bridges clutches a necklace he wears in memory of his father.
“Then I recalled how much my dad loved watching me play, and I knew I had to do it for him. I couldn’t stop playing … he would not want me to.”
Bridges is averaging 11 points and nearly six rebounds per contest thus far in the 2017-18 basketball campaign.
Last spring, Clark came mere minutes from claiming a Nevada state basketball championship. Bridges and his teammates started the season with a singular goal of getting back to that point this season, except finishing the job.
The Chargers made the long trip to Myrtle Beach for the Beach Ball Classic with wins in 10 of their first 11 games. At the time, their only loss was to Bishop Gorman (Nev.), their crosstown rival in Las Vegas, at last weekend’s Tarkanian Classic.
Clark’s aspirations of a Beach Ball Classic title were dashed, however, losing to Cox Mill (N.C.) on Thursday before falling to Moeller (Ohio) the following afternoon.
Despite those setbacks, Bridges and his teammates hope to use the experience of this past week to steer them toward the ultimate goal of a state title.
“This tournament, it’s definitely a big deal,” he said. “You notice it right once you walk in … the arena itself is bigger than most that we play in on a regular basis. Not to mention the backdrop, which is absolutely huge.
“Fortunately, we’ve had experiences like this when playing for state championships. So hopefully this offers the big tournament feel that will help us later in the season.”
Alabama school repping for the small schools
Only 150 students attend Lanett (Ala.) High School.
But somehow, state championship trophies keep finding their way to the rural school in southeastern Alabama.
Earlier this month, the Panthers claimed the Class 2A football championship. Prior to that, though, the school was in the midst of building a dynasty on the hardwood.
Winners of consecutive Alabama state titles, the school earned an invite from the Beach Ball Classic.
According to coach Richard Carter, the opportunity was a valuable one for the program.
“We came here, we had the opportunity to experience a great basketball tournament,” he said. “We’d like to thank the Beach Ball Classic committee for allowing us to participate in what we believe is one of the best events there is.”
Lanett has won 62 games over the course of its title run. It brought some of that championship pedigree to the Beach Ball Classic, where the Panthers were able to claim a win with them back to the Heart of Dixie.
“The first thing one of our guys said was ‘At least we learned something,’” Carter said. “We’ve played in a lot of tournaments … Birmingham, Atlanta, a bunch of them. But I feel playing against such great competition will only help us in our quest to win a third straight championship.”
Last chance for Beach Ball book
Author Ian Guerin has been on hand this week at the Beach Ball Classic, greeting fans as they enter the arena and signing copies of his book, “The Beach Ball Classic: Premier High School Hoops on the Grand Strand.”
The book, which was released prior to the 2016 tournament, chronicles the history of the tournament, which began in 1981 and was played at Socastee High School, as it grew into one of the nation’s most respected holiday tournaments and showcased some of the sport’s best, including Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill, Danny Ferry and Vince Carter.
Guerin, who covered the tournament while working for The Sun News, was approached by Charleston-based Arcadia Publishing and History Press about the project.
“They wanted somebody to tackle the project and since I had been around the tournament as much as I have, they wanted me to go after it,” Guerin said. “We talked it out for a little while, how it might work, how me might sell the book and promote it, and decided it was a good idea to put pen to paper.”
Guerin said it took more than 10 months of research and writing to complete the book.
“There was a lot of research up front, and I wanted to figure out how I wanted to outline it, and I kind of chipped away at it from there,” Guerin said.
Signed copies can be purchased at the tournament, or ordered online at www.ianguerin.com.
As impressive as some of the talent is at this year’s tournament, some of the player’s names are just as impressive. The Beach Ball Classic All-Name Team includes, on the First Team: Scott County’s Diablo (Lord of Darkness) Stewart, Cox Mill’s Rechon “Leaky” Black, Lanett’s Trikweze Bridges, Long Island Lutheran’s (I am the) Messiah Swinson and Bishop Gorman’s Zim Agu.
On the Second Team are Clark’s Cim Conriquez, Gorman’s Jonathan Braggs (a lot), Long Island Lutheran’s Donatas Kupsas and Caudy Desmornes, and Lanett’s Kristian (Tell Me A) Story.
Making the Third Team are Myrtle Beach’s JB (My) Favorite, Lone Peak’s Kaleo Bandmann, Imhotep’s Karam Cummings Jr., and Lanett’s duo of Cameron and Zameron Boozer.
Earning Honorable Mention are DeMatha’s Carsten Kogelnik, Lanett’s Jaquarious Houston, Anquavious Pollard, Mekaylen Dunn and Rentae Silmon, Gorman’s Adrik Lazarou, Zaon Collins, Saxton Howard, Noah Taitz, Mwani Wilkinson, and (Take a) Chance Michels, Imhotep’s Chereef Knox, Fatayn Wesley and Themere Simmons, Long Island Lutheran’s Pietro Giovanardi, Albany’s August Mahoney, Saif Ullah and Kieran Donohoe, DeMatha’s Thai’re Vance, Earl Timberlake Jr. and Steve (Never) Settle, Fairland’s Joel Lambiotte and Keedrick Cunningham and Imhotep’s Dahmir Bishop.
The team is coached by Gorman’s Grant (Beans and) Rice, Clark’s Chad (I’ve been badly) Beeten, Cox Mill’s Jody (Ken and) Barbee and Fairland’s Nathan (I never) Speed, with help from Albany assistant Joe Motley (Crew) and Imhotep assistant Miguel Bocachica.