With wins over Hickory Ridge last Tuesday, the boys' and girls' basketball teams at Concord High clinched the South Piedmont Conference regular season championship.
For the girls' team, that makes three regular season titles in a row. For the boys it makes five.
Concord basketball has had a strangle-hold over the SPC and has produced top 3A teams consistently over the last five years. It has also produced two state championships, one in 2007 for the boys and one in 2008 for the girls.
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"When (other teams) see that Concord across the shirt, that's worth a couple points," said boys' head coach Scott Brewer of the teams' recent success.
The girls finished the season undefeated in the new all-Cabarrus County conference, recording two wins over Sweet 16 No. 9 Jay M. Robinson, who moved down from 4A this year. The Spiders haven't lost a home SPC game since February 2007.
The Spiders' recent success (95-19 over the past four years) is largely due to a solid group of players who have contributed to the team since the 2008 championship season.
That 2008 team started three freshman, one sophomore and one senior. Then-sophomore Nyshia Hammonds was named the most valuable player of the championship game.
Since that year, the core has grown stronger. In 2009, the Spiders seemed like favorites to win the state title again, but the pressure seemed to get the best of the team, said girls' head coach Angela Morton.
"Last year, that big target on our back kind of wore on us," she said. This year, the team is playing "a little more relaxed, a little more like when they were younger."
The No. 15 Concord girls (19-5, 14-0) had a tough start to the season, losing four of their first six games. But that was without star center Jatzmin Johnson, a 6-foot-2 junior who was sidelined the first part of the season with an ACL injury.
Hammonds, a four-year starter, is the heart of the team. With 24 points against Hickory Ridge, she became the school's all-time leading girls' scorer. She was also the first girls' player to reach 1,000 career points in her junior year.
"She's just tremendously talented," said Morton. "She demands the best from her team off the court as well (as on the court)."
Even with the loss of Hammonds and three other seniors next year, the Spiders could easily be a threat to win the conference crown for a fourth straight time. Juniors, including 2009 all-conference selections Johnson and Jhemelia Edwards, have played a majority of the minutes this year, according to Morton.
Lots of work in the summer and a successful junior varsity team has been key to the Spiders' ability to be successful each year, said Morton. Last year, the girls played more than 30 games over the summer.
"You got to work at it year-round," said Morton. "Their individual offseason improvement contributes to our success during the season."
The JV team, coached by varsity assistant coach Samantha Bedford, uses the varsity system, so that by the time the players move up they've already been playing the same style as the varsity team.
The JV team went undefeated in league-play this year, winning their first conference title in over 20 years, said Morton. This is also the first time in seven years that there hasn't been a freshman on the varsity team.
Morton hopes that the Spiders will make a deep playoff run not only to have a shot at the state title, but to also give some of the younger players game experience as they get ready for next year.
"Deep playoff runs allows you to pull kids up (from JV) and get them ready for your system," she said.
The boys' Spiders team has been nearly unstoppable, appearing in two state title games and winning one state championship since 2006.
They've also won five straight SPC conference titles and three straight tournament titles, marking the first time a Concord team has won the regular season and tournament championships three years in a row. A run through the tournament this week would make it four.
After a run to the regional finals last year (one game away from the state championship game) this year's Spiders seemed poised to be a dominant force in 3A basketball and started the season No. 9 in the Sweet 16.
But an exceptionally tough nonconference schedule (games against Hopewell, Lake Norman and Mount Tabor twice) had the Spiders at 3-3 entering conference play. Concord (17-6, 13-1) also played in the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, a showcase of some of the country's best teams.
"I think (the tough schedule) did some good and some bad," said Brewer. "Any time you lose some games you start to doubt a little bit."
Once conference play started, the Spiders hit a rhythm, blitzing teams with their fast run-and-gun style of play. But the rhythm was cut off when the Spiders were upset by Hickory Ridge in January, their first loss to a county team in three years and only the second conference loss in that same period.
More important than the loss of the game though was the loss of senior Griffin Templeton, who broke his wrist during the game and was lost for the rest of the season.
"He was our team captain, our leading scorer," said Brewer.
Concord, No. 15 in the Sweet 16, recovered quickly, though, winning their last eight games by an average of more than 18 points, including a 25-point thrashing of Hickory Ridge in the rematch. Stepping up to replace Templeton have been senior forward Jalen Cannady (13 ppg) and junior Jacquise Moore (12 ppg), who became only the third player in school history to score 1,000 career points as a junior during last week's game against Hickory Ridge.
Despite the setbacks this year, Cannady said that teamwork has been the key to the team's success.
"It's us playing together and as a team and not giving up any game," he said.
Like the girls' team, the boys are young and should return a solid group of players next year with just two seniors graduating this year.
But Cannady isn't looking that far ahead. He is confident about what his team is going to do this year.
"We're going to win a state championship," he said.
Morton said that the success of the boys team has helped her team the last few years.
Seeing another team be successful gives her team the attitude of "if they can do it, we can do it," she said. "Success in an athletic program carries over from sport to sport."
The student body has also rallied around both teams, cheering on the girls team and even wearing "Power of One" bracelets that the girls' team throws out during player introductions.
"This is not really just about us but about our school and our community," she said. "We're kind of in this together."