With Butler undefeated in the Southwestern 4A, the rest of the conference is fighting to finish second. The two best candidates, South Mecklenburg and Myers Park, meet Friday night in a pivotal conference game.
The South Mecklenburg boys' basketball team only managed to win three games last season but now is 6-3 in the conference (7-9 overall through Jan. 27).
"To finish second would be great," said South Meck coach John Fitch, who is in his second year coaching the Sabres. "Anything above eighth (in the conference) for us is going to be an improvement."
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The Mustangs (10-8 through Jan. 27) are 6-3 in the Southwestern 4A, but two of those losses were to Butler by four points each. The third was a 49-39 loss to South Meck on Jan. 7.
The methodical Myers Park offense is built around crisp passing and patience, waiting for a scorer to get open before making a move.
Senior point guard Thomas Brafford is the key to making the offense run smoothly; he averages five assists per game.
The bulk of the Mustangs scoring comes from sophomore forward Clayton Massey, who averages 11.6 points per game and grabs 6.9 rebounds.
In its last meeting with the Sabres, Myers Park struggled to score and had its second-lowest scoring total of the season. No player scored in the double digits. For them to pull out at win at South Meck, the Mustangs will need to find their offense early.
The key for the Sabres in this SW4A rematch will be their guard play.
Sophomore CJ Thompson, who twisted his ankle last week but should be back in time for Friday's game, and junior Carrington Kirkpatrick combined for 38 points in South Meck's win against Myers Park earlier in the season.
But according to Fitch, their defensive play is what helped the Sabres win. The guards put pressure on Brafford and got them into an uncomfortable tempo, forcing several turnovers that turned into easy South Meck baskets.
"It was our overall defense that kind of set the tone of the game," said Fitch. "We got some good steals."
Kirkpatrick and Thompson will be the key for another Sabre win, but they will also need help from David Moore inside (8.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg).