Hopewell, the No.1 team in the Charlotte Observer's Sweet 16, will try to keep its undefeated streak alive when they take on North Mecklenburg Friday.
Although the Titans are a better team all-around, the No. 7 Vikings are looking to upset their rivals at home in front of what will surely be a wild crowd.
Last season, the Titans defeated the Vikings twice on their way to a 29-1 record and an appearance at the 4A state regional finals. Although Hopewell won the teams' first encounter last season by 14 points, North Mecklenburg kept it closer the second time around, only falling by one point.
But this season the teams are much different.
Hopewell is without the help of two-time MECA-7 Conference Player of the Year Brandyn Curry, who is now playing at Harvard, while North Mecklenburg lost Andre Marhold to Duquesne and Kyle Gaillard to William and Mary.
Both teams have responded well from these losses and still boast impressive lineups. The game might come down to the battle in the paint between Bernard Sullivan and DeMon Brooks, both Division I recruits.
Hopewell (14-0, 3-0 I-Meck through Jan. 7) is still undefeated even after facing tough competition at the Bojangles' Shootout during the holidays. The Titans faced No. 3 Charlotte Christian, which they outlasted in a 58-55 game.
Hopewell also faced No. 16 Ardrey Kell, who they beat 62-39, and Victory Christian, who they defeated 56-38, to win their second straight Bojangles' Shootout title.
The Titans have a strong chance to contend for a state championship this season, but first they have to get through the rest of a tough I-Meck schedule.
Hopewell has already passed a challenging test in the conference by defeating Lake Norman when the Wildcats were ranked second in the Sweet 16.
Hopewell is led by Davidson College commit Jordan Downing and Howard-bound DeMon Brooks.
Downing, an all-conference selection last season, has the ability to take over games as his opponents have a hard time defending the versatile small forward.
Brooks, on the other hand, is a strong big man who can dominate under the basket with his ability to not only grab rebounds but also to score.
If the Titans are able to successfully execute their fast-paced game plan, the team is nearly unstoppable.
The No. 13 Vikings (11-3, 0-3 I-Meck through Jan. 7) won the Leon Brogden Holiday Basketball Tournament in Wilmington late last month, defeating Laney, New Hanover and Fayetteville's Westover on the way to the championship.
This should be a big confidence booster for North Mecklenburg, which is at the bottom of the I-Meck conference standings after starting off conference play with three losses - all by less than 10 points.
The team began their season with seven straight wins before losing two close games in a row to Lake Norman and West Charlotte. The other loss came last week to Mallard Creek, who won 62-53.
North Mecklenburg's Carlin Bremner will be key for the Vikings against Hopewell as the guard has the ability to easily score 20-plus points.
Junior Bernard Sullivanwas named the most valuable player at the holiday tournament after scoring 36 points in the championship.
Sullivan, a three-star recruit according to Scout.com, already has offers from a couple of ACC schools - Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech - and has received interest from Davidson, Florida and UNC Charlotte among other D-1 schools.