NO. 7 FREEDOM PATRIOTS
Head Coach: Casey Rogers (12th season as Freedom football coach).
Coaching Career Record: 232-79.
2016-17 Record: 28-3 (13-1 in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference (NW3A/4A).
2017-18 Conference: Northwestern 3A/4A Conference.
Returning Starters (4): Fletcher Abee, Jr., G (6-2); Jakari Dula, Jr., G (6-3); Tobias Kanipe, Sr., F (6-3); Aidan Pearson, So., F (6-5).
Other Key Returnees: Michael Logan, Jr., G (6-2); Burke Pollard, Sr., F (6-2).
Key Newcomers: Ben Tolbert, So., G (5-8); Bradley Davis, So., G (5-10).
Outlook: Freedom has the experience and firepower, with four starters back in Abee (18 ppg) and Dula (17 ppg) in the backcourt, and Kanipe (9 ppg) and Pearson (8 ppg) up front, to be even better than their 28-3 record a year ago. The Patriots, who also have a strong bench, will be the favorite to win the NW3A/4A conference title in the process of trying to win a 3A state championship. Freedom has plenty of motivation after coming up just win short of 3A state title game last year.
NO. 8 KINGS MOUNTAIN MOUNTAINEERS
Head Coach: Grayson Pierce (7th year as Kings Mountain basketball coach).
Coaching Career Record: 87-71.
2016-17 Record: 19-10 (11-5 in the South Mountain Athletic Conference 2A/3A).
2017-18 Conference: Big South 3A Conference.
Returning Starters (2): Adrian Delph, Sr., PG (6-3) (Appalachian State commit); Zeke Littlejohn, Jr., G (6-2).
Other Key Returnees: Eli Paysour, Jr., G/F (6-2).
Key Newcomers: Kobe Paysour, Fr., PG (6-1).
Outlook: The Mountaineers are a matchup nightmare with one of the most dynamic backcourts in the state in Delph (21 ppg/Appalachian State commit) and Littlejohn (18 ppg/Division I recruit) that can run and shoot with the best of them. With Delph and Littlejohn capable of exploding at any moment, Kings Mountain is one of the favorites to win the Big South conference and a dangerous playoff matchup in a win or go home scenario.