Highland Festival returns after two-year layoff to Erwin Center

GASTONIA - Hometown Sunset Park had lots of youthful basketball talent on display on Friday night in the Highland Festival recreation tournament championship game.

Unfortunately, rival Bad Boyz of Shelby had talent and experience as the tournament returned after a two-year layoff.

And their veteran leadership played a role in a 49-47 championship game victory at Erwin Centar.

"I think it's good for the community," said Wiyle Petty, a 1996 Crest High graduate who has been playing in the tournament since the late 1990s. "Everybody comes out and enjoys it."

Petty and his teammates enjoyed more than most after holding off a late Sunset Park rally.

Bad Boyz, whose most valuable player was 2006 Shelby High graduate Danny Sanders, scored the game's first seven points and kept Sunset Park scoreless for the seven minutes.

Sunset Park would tie the score at 13 and had two possessions with a chance to take the lead in the final 1 1-2 minutes.

But Bad Boyz had defensive answers each time and converted just enough free throws to hold on for the win.

Sanders, who played at Mars Hill and later in Germany for two seasons, was playing against some of his old teammates as he went for a team-high 17 points.

"I love it," said Sanders, who now does basketball training at the Shelby Boys and Girls Club. "There's nothing like local fame.

"I used to play with Sunset Park so it was great to see my old teammates."

Petty, a 1,000-point career scorer at J.C. Smith University, finished with 12 points and Tyrone Brooks added 10 for Bad Boyz.

Sunset Park got a game-high 23 points from Jaelen Kennedy, a 2013 Hunter Huss High graduate. Kennedy, the Gazette's 2013 high school boys basketball player of the year, also had a tournament-high 60 points.

The tournament, which was held annually from 1990 to 2015, returned this season with a 10-team field and games that began on Tuesday.

Earlier, two other games were held:

 

Alumni game

White 48, Blue 42: Most valuable player Mike Anderson had 20 points for the winners with Larry Lipscomb and Jimmy Hart scoring 10 each for the losers.

 

Girls basketball game

Jazz Tyme Ballers 43, Gastonia Girls 31: Justin Taylor scored 13 points for the winners, who named Olivia Reid most valuable player. Ebony Johnson's 10 points led Gastonia Girls.

 

Richard Walker: 704-869-1841; twitter.com/jrwalk22