Random thoughts on high school basketball as conference play heats up:
• When you graduate nearly all your key players from an undefeated 4A state champion like Olympic High did last year, you probably wouldn’t expect to return to No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16. But coach Ty Baumgardner’s Trojans have done it.
No. 1 Olympic on Friday beat SoMeck 8 conference rival South Meck to improve to 14-1 and 4-1 in conference play. Olympic trails first-place Berry (12-2, 5-0) by one game.
Baumgardner may be doing his best coaching job, and that’s saying something because the job he did last year was extraordinary, guiding Olympic through a dream season. Baumgardner’s record is 100-5 the past four seasons, 44-1 the past two.
• I’m not sure there’s a player in the state having a better season than Shelby High senior Gabe DeVoe, who has committed to Clemson. On Wednesday, DeVoe torched Statesville for 52 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. Shelby won 94-56 and DeVoe made 11 3-point shots. DeVoe scored 29 points in Friday’s 86-43 win at Draughn.
DeVoe averages better than 33 points per game this season and ranks eighth in the country. He also averages 8.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.6 steals.
• Northside Christian’s team is special. Saturday, the Knights (16-1) rallied from a double-digit first-half deficit to beat powerhouse Denver (Colo.) East, which had two high-major recruits, including national top 70 player Dominique Collier, a 6-foot-2 guard committed to Colorado. Keyshawn Woods had 11 second-quarter points as Northside rallied.
Northside has played in three high-level tournaments – the Chick-fil-A in Columbia, the Wild Wing Cafe at Ardrey Kell and Saturday’s Under Armour event at Berry High. In those events, Northside lost once and that was against the nation’s top team, Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Northside has beaten several regional powers, like Denver East and Arlington Country Day (Fla.). Northside beat a national top 15 team in Lincoln (N.Y.). If the Knights finish the rest of the season unbeaten and win a third straight state championship – and they’ll be a double-digit favorite in each of their remaining games – Northside, in my opinion, will qualify as a top 10 (or better) Mecklenburg County team of all time. They’re that good.
Northside’s record is 108-7 the past four seasons.
• Hough has beaten West Charlotte in three straight games and that’s some feat. It’s another that, so quickly, the Huskies have become a state power. The Cornelius school has the type of rabid fan base, population and active talent pool to be a multi-sport power for years.
• After coming up short of the state championship game the past two seasons, Myers Park’s girls seem to be extra focused this year. Their performances have been fairly consistent and they seem to be adapting to second-year coach Barbara Nelson’s strict approach and her attention to detail. Nelson won seven state titles at Providence Day and coached probably four of the county’s 10 best-ever teams. I don’t think this Mustangs team is top-10 good, but it is good enough to win Myers Park its first state title in girls’ basketball this season – provided it continues to do the little things and stay consistent.