For the past two seasons, Hopewell's boys basketball team has beaten nearly every team in its path. In fact, the Titans have won 43 of 44 games since the start of the 2008-09 season.
After starting 29-0 last year, Hopewell is at it again this year, off to a 14-0 start.
"We (the coaching staff) are really hard on our kids every day in practice," head coach Eric Davis said. "We demand that our kids play at a high level on both ends of the court on every possession. That is how we try to keep them focused."
Hopewell, No. 1 in the Observer's Sweet 16 and ranked No. 2 in the state, has shown good focus already this season, with wins over Ardrey Kell, Charlotte Christian, Concord, Providence and West Charlotte, which also has been ranked in the Sweet 16. The Titans won their second consecutive Bojangle's Shootout over the holiday.
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The Titans are known for their stifling defense, allowing fewer than 50 points per game this season.
"Everything starts with our defense," Davis said. "We have always preached that defense is what wins games, and that has been the backbone of this team for the last few seasons."
The Titans offense isn't too bad, either. It's led by double-double machine DeMon Brooks, who is churning out 19 points and 10 rebounds per contest. Brooks, who has committed to play basketball at Howard University next season, has a lot of help in the frontcourt from Jordan Downing and Bryce Hawkins.
Downing is averaging 17 points and five rebounds per game. He'll play at Davidson College next season. Hawkins is scoring 11 points per game and nabbing seven rebounds.
"You definitely have to have the horses to play at the level that we have played and to have the success we have had," said Davis, whose team won the last two ME-CA 7 conference titles. "And we have had and do have some very good players."
After losing two of the best guards in Charlotte last season in Brandyn Curry (now at Harvard University) and Alex Godette (now at Army), the Titans have barely missed a beat. Point guard Earl McLaurin and shooting guard Adrian Addie took over the reins.
The backcourt duo has taken care of the ball so well that the Titans have taken 200 more shots than their opponents this season.
Things won't get any easier in the new year, as the Titans get to the meat of their first season in the I-Meck conference, which includes archrivals North Mecklenburg, Vance and West Charlotte, as well as Lake Norman, Mallard Creek and Mooresville.
"We probably play in the best conference in the state," Davis said. "Every night will be a dog fight, with a team pretty much from your backyard. It will be tough, but we are looking forward to the challenge."
The next level
Some of the best high school basketball players in the North Neighbors area last season are having impacts in the college game this season.
Former East Lincoln star Keith Rendleman is averaging 5.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in 18 minutes per contest for UNC Wilmington. He had 11 points and 16 rebounds against George Washington and nine points and seven boards at Wake Forest.
Curry is scoring 5.6 points, dishing out 2.6 assists and grabbing 1.2 steals per game. He scored 7 points and dished six assists in a win over Seattle University, and he had a career-high 9 points against Boston University.
Former North Meck star Kyle Gaillard is averaging 4.5 points and 1.8 rebounds for surprising William & Mary (10-2). The Tribe has beaten Wake Forest, Maryland, Richmond and VCU. Gaillard had 8 points and four rebounds in his debut at Connecticut, and a season-best 15 points against Longwood University.