Olivia Archer, Lake Norman Charter Girls’ Tennis, jr.: The Lake Norman Charter junior is playing in the USTA Winter National Championships (18 singles’ division) for the second year in a row in Phoenix this week.
The USTA Winter National Championships, which run Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, are one of three, Level 1 national championships held each season.
Archer also competed in the USTA National Clay Court championships last summer in Memphis.
Archer won the 2A state singles’ championship without losing a set this high school, as she also led the Knights to their third straight 2A state, team title.
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Jairus Hamilton, Cannon School Basketball, jr.: The 6-foot-8, Cannon School junior forward had a dominant week on the court, averaging 31.3 points, 15.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists to help the Cougars to a 2-1 record in the Chik-Fil-A Classic tournament in Columbia, S.C.
Hamilton, who is ranked in the top 25 recruits nationally in his class (2018) had 33 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Porter Gaud on Dec. 22 with University of North Carolina coach, Roy Williams, in attendance. He came back the next day with 26 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Providence Day in the same event.
Queens Grant Boys’ Basketball/Elevation Church Matthews: The Queens Grant boys’ basketball team has had a lot of success on the court recently, including a school-record 22-6 mark last year, where they advanced to the third round of the 1A state playoffs, which is also a school record.
But Stallions’ coach, Jay Forsythe, says it’s just as important to make sure his team is successful off the court at the same time.
Forsythe, assistant coach, Gary Welch — who organized the event — and 18 Queens Grant varsity and J.V. players went Dec. 14 to help Elevation Church Matthews move into their new building.
The coaches and players spent two hours sorting supplies and toys, putting together baby swings and book shelves so the church could be ready to move into its new building faster.
Queens Grant had a team dinner afterward, where they enjoyed pizza and stories about their experience.
“We try to teach our kids that there is much more to life than basketball, it’s about helping others,” Forsythe said. “I want our guys to graduate from high school being exposed to more than just what is around them. ...
“Helping Elevation Church in another way for these guys to help others. One thing we constantly say to our guys is, ‘One day the basketball will stop bouncing. That’s why an education, knowing how to serve others and making your community better are important. There are no ‘free trophies,’ in life.”
Queens Grant (3-4 this season) gets back on the court this week, Dec. 27-29, in the WNC Holiday Classic at Carolina Day School.
The Stallions are led by seniors, Terron Dixon and Daymaun Harvey, who each average 16 points per game.
Sarah Billiard, Covenant Day Girls’ Basketball, sr.: The 6-foot, Covenant Day senior forward continues her monster season as she is averaging 19.5 points, 18.2 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game.
Billiard was even better last week, averaging 20.3 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks per contest in three wins in three days to win the BSN Sports Queen City Clash tournament at Charlotte Country Day, where she was named to the all-tournament team.
Billiard was at her best in the championship game, scoring 23 points, grabbing 24 rebounds and seven blocks in Covenant Day’s 46-25 win over Independence.
Billiard has 11 double-doubles this seasons and five or more blocks in eight games.
The most ironic thing is basketball isn’t even Billiard’s best sport, as the all-state volleyball player is signed to play volleyball with University of Virginia.
D.J. Little, Butler Basketball, jr.: Just a few weeks ago, the 6-foot-2, senior Butler guard was playing football for the Bulldogs.
Little made an impressive transition back to the hardwood, especially with his MVP performance to help Butler win the Y.C. Winborn Holiday Classic at Rock Hill.
Little averaging 18.7 points and 4.7 steals per game in the tournament, making 11 three-pointers in the three-game event, where Butler beat Orangeburg-Wilkinson, Marvin Ridge and Hunter Huss. Little was at his best in the championship game victory over Hunter Huss, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven steals to lead his team to a 75-59 win.
Butler, No. 1 in the Observer Sweet 16, is a perfect 13-0 this season through Dec. 27.
Gabby Smith, Hickory Ridge Girls’ Basketball, jr.: Hickory Ridge junior, forward Gabby Smith had two more double-doubles last week to help the Ragin’ Bulls’ girls stay unbeaten at 11-0 through Dec. 27.
Smith averages a double-double at 15.5 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest, but was even better in wins over Cox Mill and Carson last week.
She had 20 points and 13 rebounds in the 61-26 victory over Cox Mill, only to come back the next night with 19 points and 12 rebounds in a 60-51 win over Carson.
Smith has helped lead a dominant, Hickory Ridge team, that beating their opponents by an average of 36 points so far this season.
Cedric McGriff, Providence Indoor Track, sr.: The Providence senior sprinter/hurdler ran a new personal-best and school-record, 7.43 seconds, in the 55-meter hurdles to win the NC Runners Holiday Invitational on Dec. 17.
The time was also the No. 2 time in U.S. this indoor season, and No. 1 in the state.
Zach Barksdale, Parkwood Indoor Track, so.: Parkwood sophomore, Zach Barksdale, qualified for the NCHSAA 3A state meet in four different events in his first meet of the indoor season at Weddington, Dec. 13, despite cold and rainy conditions.
Barksdale, who is 15 years old, qualified states in the long jump (20-9.5), 300-meter dash (37.23), 55-meter hurdles (8.35) without warm-up and the 4 X 200-meter relay (1:36.13).
Barksdale has benefitted from the experience of his Parkwood track coach John Tillman, who was a former U.S Olympian in the 1992 Barcelona games in triple jump.
John Ciaramella, III, Marvin Ridge Wrestling, jr.: The Marvin Ridge junior is a perfect 23-0 on the season, with a win at the Rumble on the Ridge tournament already to his credit.
Ciaramella was also a perfect 5-0 in the Sun Valley Duals on Dec. 22, knocking off to of the state’s best 170-pound wrestlers in Metrolina Christian’s Donnie Coleman and Rock Hill’s Noah Reynolds, the same event.
Michael McClelland, Charlotte Latin Wrestling, sr.: The Charlotte Latin senior has also been dominant on the mat with a 20-1 record this season.
McClelland, the two-time defending NCISAA state champion, won the Pirate Invitational at Porter Ridge, pinning 1A state semifinalist, South Stanly’s Levi Carpenter.
McClelland, who has won 19 of 20 matches by pin this season, will wrestle for Davidson College next year.
Donnie Coleman, Metrolina Christian, sr.: The Metrolina Christian senior is also off to a great start at 26-1 this year, including wins at both the Bobby Abernathy Memorial at Piedmont and Pirate Invitational at Porter Ridge, where he was also the events’ most outstanding wrestler.
Coleman is the defending NCISAA champion at 160 pounds.
DeAngelo Epps, Charlotte Country Day Basketball, so.: Charlotte Country Day sophomore forward, DeAngelo Epps, had one of the best weeks of his young career, averaging 18 points, nine rebounds and 2.5 steals per as he led his team to a third-place finish in Charlotte Country’s Day’s own, BSN Sports Queen City Clash.
Epps, who was named to the all-tournament team, had his best game with 20 points and eight rebounds in a 46-39 win over Pinewood Prep on the final day.
Baylee Morton, Parkwood Girls’ Basketball, sr.: The Parkwood senior forward had a big week at the Anson Invitational, Dec. 20-21, averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per game, in the tournament.
Morton, who is averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game this season, had her best game in Parkwood’s 63-41 victory over Chesterfield on Dec. 21 with 26 points, five rebounds and four steals.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
HELP US FIND THE ATHLETES
This season’s finest highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through Dec. 26. In most cases, the athletes featured will come from sports that don’t get a lot of recognition. However, the goal is to recognize excellence. If you want to suggest someone to be included in This Season’s Finest column, send email to Jay Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information