The All-Tournament Team includes, from left, Brian Polite from Lady’s Island, Javon Mitchell from Hardeeville-Ridgeland Hurricanes, Kordell Holley of McCracken, and Reid McCollum of River Ridge. Not pictured is Carnell Warren of McCracken. PHOTOS COURTESY RIVER RIDGE HOLIDAY HOOPS

River Ridge Academy hosted its second annual Holiday Hoops Classic Jan. 8 for middle school boys basketball teams from around the Lowcountry.

The tournament began in 2020 with a widespread field from Hilton Head to Robert Smalls. The field was a little slimmer this year due to last-minute COVID dropouts, but still featured a selection of Bluffton and Lowcountry rising hoops stars.

The Hardeeville-Ridgeland Hurricanes, coached by Bluffton hoops guru and Carolina Ballers leader Jake Morrow and Syracuse legend and native mentor Tony Bruin, defeated the River Ridge Raiders in a tightly-contested final. The H.E. McCracken Bulldogs Black crew took third place, taking down the tourney’s North-of-the-Broad representatives from Lady’s Island Middle School.

“It’s a great showcase for our rising youth boys basketball players and we have a lot of fun with these kids and try to build camaraderie among the teams from all around the Lowcountry,” said River Ridge boys basketball head coach Woodie Melton IV, who runs the tournament alongside Bluffton High School’s Kyle Cartledge.

HRMS defeated McCracken Black to begin the tourney, followed by the host Raiders taking down McCracken White, while the team mostly comprised of seventh graders put up a hearty fight.

River Ridge followed that up with a back-and-forth battle and victory over Lady’s Island. In an official version of most every practice scrimmage, the McCracken Black team took down their teammates from McCracken White and then followed by defeating Lady’s Island in the third-place game. 

After the final, the coaches convened to pick their all-stars from the tournament.

Host River Ridge had four representatives, with Reid McCollum, Kiran Boggess, Chase Colella and Brendan O’Reilly earning the honors.

McCracken and Hardeeville had five representatives apiece, with Carnell Warren, Kordell Holley, Jake Wood, Victor Jimenez and Joey Houpt from the Bulldogs, and Javon Mitchell, Devin Green, Quaron Mitchell, Amare Patterson and Killian Gibson from the Hurricanes.

McCollum, Warren, Holley, Brian Polite and Javon Mitchell were named the All-Tournament team, the best among the all-star crew.

The day finished with a pick-up all-star game, and giving the kids a middle-school taste of what they see during NBA All-Star Weekend, tournament organizers also held a layup skills, free throw and three-point shooting contest.

A crew of seventh graders took home the skills honors. River Ridge’s Grayden Arnold took home the layup contest title, teammate Aaden Ware outshot the competition for the free throw title, while McCracken’s Landry Williams’ sweet stroke scored him a victory in three-point contest.

Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at