When Central Cabarrus’ girls’ basketball team hosted Northwest Cabarrus Jan. 10, the players knew a victory over the Trojans and an East Rowan loss would thrust the Vikings into a first-place tie with East in the South Piedmont 3A.Central built a 19-point lead late in the third quarter only to watch it all but disappear in the closing minutes. The Vikings held on for a 53-48 victory and found themselves tied for the conference lead through seven league games.If only Central could learn to play with a lead, lamented coach Brandon Blalock.Still, the Vikings are surprising many observers who wondered whether they could rebound from losing the conference player of the year from a team that had merely a .500 record in the SPC last year.Led by the scoring and dynamic play of freshman guard Mahaley Holit and a strong supporting cast, Central raced to a 6-1 conference mark heading into last week’s break for first-semester exams. The Vikings were scheduled to play at Carson Jan. 17 and are due for a showdown at East Rowan Jan. 22.Last year, Central had a 10-17 overall record, but won six of its last nine regular-season games to finish 7-7 in the SPC. It was good enough for a fourth-place league finish and a berth in the 3A state playoffs. The Vikings lost in the first round to eventual state champion Harding.Leading last year’s Central team was guard Divonnie Powell, who averaged 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game – almost half the Vikings’ offense. She is now a freshman at North Greenville University.Evaluating the program after his first season, Blalock wasn’t sure what lay ahead for the Vikings. Ny’Asia Haggans, now a senior, would be Central’s top returning scorer at 4 points per game.Leading rebounder Sophia McFarlane, however, now a junior, was also returning. She pulled down a team-best 11.2 rebounds per game last season.A few key additions have filled holes in Central’s lineup. Among them is junior Kelsey Adcock, who transferred from Concord CFA Academy and now provides depth at guard.In the meantime, Blalock heard about the impending arrival of Holit, who stood out at C.C. Griffin Middle last year. And while McFarlane is again one of the Vikings’ best rebounders at 9.5 per game, another freshman, Elanna Peay, is getting 11.5 boards per game.“Last year’s team was a little different, because this year we have more than one person who can handle the ball,” said Haggans, a three-year varsity player. “We’re more athletic than last year. We just have more variety this year than last year.”The Vikings were tested early on, losing to Weddington 82-41 in their season opener and dropping a 53-38 decision to Marvin Ridge even though both Holit and Peay scored in double figures both games.Central found the win column in its next game, against SPC foe China Grove Carson. Holit, Haggans, McFarlane and sophomore Justice Wallace all scored 10 or more points. A 61-55 victory over rival Hickory Ridge, an early conference favorite, provided the Vikings with some more confidence.Another key victory came on Jan. 3 over Cox Mill. The Vikings were held scoreless in the first quarter, but charged back for a 39-35 win by outscoring Cox Mill 31-16 in the second half.“We came into the locker room and got a good speech (from Blalock),” Holit said. “We came out and hustled and made free throws and were confident in our shots and rebounds and passing and catching the ball. We just came out and played hard.”Holit is leading the Vikings by averaging 17 points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals per game. She scored a season-high 28 points in a 65-61 win over West Rowan on Dec. 17.That was another game in which Central built a large lead, only to let the opponent whittle it away. Once the Vikings learn how to play with a lead, Blalock said, they will be at a level where they can be compared to some of Cabarrus County’s tradition-rich teams.“I’ll be happy when people think of us like they think of Concord here, or Jay M. Robinson,” Blalock said. “We have a long, long way to go.”
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014
Central Cabarrus girls making a run at SPC title
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at email@example.com.
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