Teams bracing for season's start

The South Piedmont Conference has been top-heavy in recent years with A.L. Brown, Concord, Jay M. Robinson and recently Hickory Ridge among the top teams.

Three-time defending conference champions, the Spiders, are again in the conversation for another title. Their speed and talent might be too much for some, but the Bulldogs and Hickory Ridge might have enough talent to step in Concord's way.

Cox Mill and Northwest Cabarrus should be improved, having had coaching continuity, but it is questionable whether they can challenge one of the top teams for a SPC title. Mount Pleasant, which struggled to adjust to the switch from class 2A to 3A, will rebuild after losing a lot of talent.

A.L. Brown

Coach: Tosha Robinson.

2009-2010 record: 15-11.

The Wonders finished last season in fourth place in the conference, but had Jasmine Parker, one of the best players in the conference, who averaged 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks per game. The 6-foot-1 senior center is back for more and hopes to lead a talented team in contention for a SPC title. Parker will be helped again by Aliayah Spears, the team’s point guard, who was the second leading scorer for Kannapolis last year.

Key players:

Jasmine Parker: N.C. A&T-bound center will be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Central Cabarrus

Coach: Andrea Stinson.

2009-2010 record: 1-16.

The Vikings struggled last year under former N.C. State and WNBA star Andrea Stinson, but should be improved this year. Although they might struggle to compete with the top teams in the conference, they might pull out a few more wins than last season.


Coach: Angela Morton.

2009-2010 record: 24-6.

The Spiders’ senior class will be key as to whether Angela Morton’s squad can get another SPC championship. Mariah Black, Jhemelia Edwards and Jasmine Berry all have four-year varsity experience, which is a big boost for the talented Spiders. Junior Alleson Briggs, as well as newcomers Danielle Foard – last year’s JV most valuable player – Emia Black and Tae Lynch, both add depth to a loaded team. The only question is whether their speed will make up for the lack of height.

Key players:

Jhemelia Edwards: Spiders’ top returning scorer is looking to close out her high school career the same way it began – with a state title.

Cox Mill

Coach: Tony Walters.

2009-2010 record: 2-21.

In their second season, the Chargers should be much improved. Cox Mill has seven returning players, which should give the team an advantage, as they already know coach Tony Walters’ system. All five starters – seniors Ivy Arrington, Cherise Baker and Jennelle Felton as well as junior Jessica Stafford and sophomore Aaliyah Earl – also are back. Although the Chargers might not compete with the top team, they should stay in more games than last year.

Key players:

Cherise Baker: Senior forward returns to lead the Chargers in their second year.

Hickory Ridge

Coach: Jessica Kulp.

2009-2010 record: 21-8.

The Ragin’ Bulls had a good year last season, reaching the 3A sectional championship. The team will again be led by junior Jordan Strode, who averaged 12 points last year. Senior guard Monique Robson is a fellow returning starter and should give Strode, who is getting interest from a number of Division I schools, some help.

Key players:

Jordan Strode: 5-foot-10 junior guard is a tremendous player who could be the difference-maker for the Ragin’ Bulls.

Jay M. Robinson

Coach: Lin Smithson.

2009-2010 record: 20-4.

Robinson is led by Lin Smithson and defending SPC Player of the Year Kelsee Cheek. Cheek is a scoring machine that can prove too much for opponents, as she showed last year.

Key players:

Kelsee Cheek: 5-foot-11 guard hopes to defend Player of the Year status and get the Bulldogs a shot at an SPC title.

Mount Pleasant

Coach: Neil Pifer.

2009-2010 record: 6-18.

First-year coach Neil Pifer takes over the Tigers’ program hoping to help it improve after it struggled in its first season of 3A competition. Mount Pleasant returns no starters – after losing six seniors and more than 40 points in scoring – so they will be looking to reload.

Key players:

Bethany Harrison: The 5-foot-7 junior is the top returning scorer with 4 points per game.

Northwest Cabarrus

Coach: Kevin Bryant.

2009-2010 record: 9-16.

The Trojans return two starters – Senior Taylor Allen and junior Erica Merriman – after a year adjusting to class 3A and a new coach. With continuity, Northwest should see some improvement.

Key players:

Taylor Allen: 5-foot-7 guard will need to step up for Trojans.