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SCHOOL OF THE ARTS HAS REASON TO CHEER

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The opulent Stevens Center, a long-running financial burden to the N.C. School of the Arts, is finally paid off. And the school's chancellor intends to celebrate that fact tonight in dramatic fashion.

At a benefit for the school after tonight's sold out performance of Neil Simon's ``Lost in Yonkers,' Chancellor Alex Ewing intends to burn the mortgage, representing payments on $2.3 million in bank loans and back taxes.The happy torching will take place in the ballroom of The Stouffer Winston Plaza Hotel before 550 School of the Arts patrons who paid $125 apiece to attend. Simon, Gov. Jim Martin, and Broadway producer Roger Stevens, for whom the theater is named, are expected to attend.

The scoop on hoops

Want to know the 80 best high school basketball teams in North Carolina? The ones that have gotten a head start on making an appearance in the state finals in the Dean Dome on March 23? See the Greensboro News & Record/Associated Press Prep Basketball Rankings in today's sports section.

The rankings, compiled by News & Record preps editor Brian Tomlin with the help of sports writers across the state, list the top 10 boys' and girls' teams in each of the four public school enrollment classifications. The rankings make their debut today on B1 and will appear in Friday editions of the News & Record through the end of the regular season in late February.

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