Bittersweet ending

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Friday marks the bittersweet ending of both the Carolina Academy Conference regular season in basketball, and the high school basketball career of my daughters, Shannon and Melissa.

Over the years, I’ve written many columns about Shannon and Melissa. As a matter-of-fact, the very first column I ever wrote was about them and the search for a special baby doll the Christmas they turned 3 years old.

It was in 1989 when that column published – they were about to turn 4, and over the past 14 years there have been many changes for them and for me.

Through all the boy issues, which I promised I would never write about, and the simple growing up stages, there has been on phase of their life I didn’t need to write about and that was their participation in high school athletics. They got plenty of ink on their own there.

But now comes their final game of the season, of their career in regular season and on top of it comes the final episode in the history of the Carolina Academy Conference.

To give you some background, the CAC was formed in the early 1970s as several small private schools began to build athletic programs.

Northeast Academy was one of the original CAC schools and other schools to be in the conference over the years were Enfield, Halifax, Nash-Edgecombe-Wilson, Hobgood, Roanoke-Chowan, Lawrence, Albemarle and Tarboro-Edgecombe.

During the years, we lost Roanoke-Chowan Academy and with conference restructuring in the 1980s, Lawrence and Albemarle dropped out to form the Tarheel Independent Conference with local rival Ridgecroft in Ahoskie as well as Terra Ceia and Pungo from down around the Pantego and Pungo area.

Tarboro-Edgecombe, or better known as TEA, was added along the way as was the short-lived Martin Academy.

Needless to say, there have been many changes in the CAC since it began, but holding true to small school rivalry in football, basketball and baseball have been the &uot;big four&uot; which included Northeast, Enfield, Hobgood and Halifax.

With alleged illegal recruiting and then embezzling charges brought against school officials, NEW was closed a couple of years ago adding the first hole in the CAC, but the biggest blow came this past fall just weeks after school began when Enfield announced it would be closing its doors.

With other issues involving Halifax (moving to 2-A status; all of these school are 1-A) and TEA not having the students to outfit varsity sports, it left a big question as to the future of the CAC.

With that came decision time – could we find the schools to keep the CAC alive or would Northeast, Hobgood and Halifax be forced to find new conferences?

The latter became the inevitable and shortly after the close of 2003, it became official that Northeast would move to the Tarheel Independent Conference.

Now, that’s a good move for the school because Hobgood was also accepted. This take two strong CAC athletic programs into a very competitive conference, and brings back together those old CAC rivals, Lawrence and Albemarle, plus for the first time in history puts backyard rivals, Northeast and Ridgecroft, in the same conference.

I ramble a bit about all these schools and the rivalries between them, but I do so because I was a part of it in the 1970s. Serving as both a member of the athletic programs from the time I was in seventh grade and sitting on the CAC Student Government Board as a senior in high school, I saw firsthand the closeness and sometimes bitterness between these schools.

As Shannon and Melissa entered seventh grade and began to participate in athletics at Northeast, they too quickly became a part of that rivalry that plays such an important part in a person’s social life. And the competition of the CAC runs deep now in their veins.

But now it’s the end of an era, and a bittersweet end to both a great conference and to my daughters’ final days of high school basketball.

It seems so fitting that Northeast play Hobgood at home for this final regular season game. I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to the CAC than to have them be a part of it.

And it seems fitting, I suppose, to have Shannon and Melissa see their high school basketball careers come to an end at the same time the school makes a conference move.