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The Maine Firecrackers are coming off a fabulous campaign in 2016, and they will return to the Deep South Classic with high expectations.
The 19th annual Deep South Classic will be presented by the All Star Girls Report and the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance in April. The four day event will be hosted at the Raleigh Convention Center, and it will feature 20 courts under one roof from April 20-23, 2017.
The Firecrackers have plenty of firepower returning from the 2016 squad that posted a 17-1 record in the prestigious ASGR Summer League.
“There are obviously a lot of very good teams in the Summer League, so you need to have some luck to go 17-1 against that competition,” said Coach Don Briggs, who guided the Firecrackers to championships at the Suwanee Tournament of Champions and ASGR’s Summer Basketball Playoff event. “The ball bounced our way a few times, and then we had kids step up in big moments and make plays. The kids played hard and smart all summer.”
The kids also had plenty of talent, including three players who were just freshmen last year. Both Mackenzie Holmes (6-2, P) and Anna DeWolfe (5-6, PG) started for the Firecrackers’ top team, and Faith Blethen (6-3, WF) came off the bench. Holmes is rated as the No. 280 recruit in her class by the All Star Girls Report, and DeWolfe is at No. 290.
“Mackenzie and Anna were a big part of our success last year,” Briggs said. “Mackenzie is a pure post player with soft hands and great inside moves. She is really working to improve her consistency from 15 or 16 feet. Her free throw shooting percentage has gone way up to 85 percent during the high school season, so she is doing a great job of rounding out her game.
“Anna is like the Energizer Bunny, and all the coaches love her. I guess the easiest way to say it is that Anna is as close as we have to a city kid. She plays with a lot of flare. She is a great passer, she shoots the three and the floater, and it’s like the ball is an extension of her hand. Anna loves the game, and she loves to practice.
“Faith is a long athlete who can shoot the deep three, and she is starting to generate a lot of interest. She had a great summer, and she is up to 15 or 16 Division I offers now. The big thing for Faith was learning to compete physically. She has really filled out, and she has spent a lot of time in the weight room.”
The Firecrackers will also be expecting major contributions from two players from the Class of 2018. Eva Mazur is a 5-11 wing who is at No. 475 on the ASGR rankings for 2018, and Alex Hart is a 5-7 combo guard.
“Eva is a slasher who has great anticipation on the defensive end,” Briggs said. “She has the wingspan of a 6-2 player, so she gets her hands on a lot of balls. Eva is a very good athlete and a very good ball handler, and she is a stat sheet filler who gets you points, rebounds, steals and assists.
“Alex is the fastest kid in our program, and she is another player who can do a little bit of everything for her team. She has the athleticism, she shoots the three and she can get to the rim.”
Briggs believes he will have nine scholarship players this summer, and they will all be on display at the Deep South Classic.
“The Deep South is just a great event in every way,” said Briggs, who will be returning for his eighth Classic. “The competition is great, the venue is tremendous, and the organization is outstanding.”