Briggs helps Concord girls retain edge

If Concord coach Angela Morton could play five of Alley Briggs on the court at the same time, she'd do it. After all, the Spiders senior is capable of playing at five different positions, just not all at once.

Briggs will be counted on greatly as Concord tries to defend its girls basketball South Piedmont 3A title. The Spiders have not lost a league game, either in the regular season or SPC tournament, in two years.

A natural fit in the post because of her toughness and leaping ability, Briggs could be plugged into either of the guard positions in a time of need. A capable ball handler, Briggs is also the team's best three-point shooter, according to Morton.

Briggs is a four-year varsity player but has developed her all-around game over her three seasons. As a freshman she broke in as a physical, rebounding inside player.

As a sophomore, Briggs worked her way up to first player off the bench. Rebounding was still her forte, but she started to run the floor a lot better.

Last year was a breakout season for Briggs. As a first-year starter, she averaged 11 points and seven rebounds and was named all-conference.

Toward the end of the season, however, Briggs' undersized body (5-feet-6) started to take a beating around the basket. She had knee surgery after the season but Morton says she is now at full strength.

Concord (21-7 overall in 2010-11, 14-0 in the South Piedmont conference) was challenged in the SPC by Harrisburg Hickory Ridge and Concord Robinson, both of which return strong players. The Spiders will also be counting on senior guard Emia Black, a third-year varsity player who will take over at point guard and be the team's defensive stopper.

All-conference guard/forward Jordan Strode (senior, 15.7 ppg., 4.6 apg., 4.4 rpg.) is one of just three players returning to Hickory Ridge (18-9, 11-3). She recently signed a letter-of-intent to play at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia.

Another is player with similar versatility is sophomore Kiana Davis, who averaged 4.8 points and 5.5 rebounds last year.

All-conference senior guard Izzy Bernal (12.1 ppg., 6.1 rpg., 3.2 apg.) will make Robinson (20-8, 10-4) a little quicker and more aggressive overall. She pushes the ball up the floor well and is a dazzling passer. Senior forwards Daylin Leftwich and Olivia Newell are a great tandem under the basket.

Northwest Cabarrus and Kannapolis Brown figure to be in the conference's top half.

For the Trojans (10-16, 8-6), senior Nesha Spears (10 ppg., 10 rpg.) will look to build on her all-conference season. Complementing her will be junior guard Jasmine Davis (5 ppg., 5 apg.).

A.L. Brown's (12-15, 7-7) core returns with junior point guard Aaliyah Spears (12.3 ppg., 3.0 apg.), senior guard Sara Tuttle (6 ppg.) and junior forward (Raven Phifer (6 ppg., 5.3 rpg.). Mike Wolford takes over as the Wonders' head coach.

Mount Pleasant (10-14, 4-10) has seven returning letter-winners from last season including seniors Katelyn Cline (center, 6.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg.), Macy Andrews (guard, 5.0 ppg.), Bethany Harrison (guard, 7.5 ppg.) and junior Ally Hunt (point guard, 4.7 ppg. 1.7 apg.).

Central Cabarrus (4-19, 2-12) looks to rebuild under coach Scott Fortune, a former Vikings' boys coach. Forward NeKaya Thompson (8.2 ppg., 5.1 rpg.) and guards Divonnie Powell (7.2 ppg, 4.1 apg.), and Alisha Blakely (7.3 ppg., 3.3 apg.) all juniors, and senior guard Jessica Hubbard (8.5 ppg.) lead a deep team that will try to make the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

Cox Mill (3-20, 0-14) looks to have its first winning season since the school opened in 2009. Several of the Chargers are three-year varsity players: twins Kristen and Amanda Cella, Jessica Stafford (all senior combo guard/forwards) and Aaliyah Earl (junior forward). Sophomore Kaitlyn Slice is an experienced forward, and freshman guard Audrey McLamb is an exciting newcomer.

Concord First Assembly (28-4, 14-1) will defend its private-schools Metrolina Athletic Conference championship with only two returning starters. Much will rely on all-conference junior forward Paris Johnson (12 ppg., 10 rpg.).

Despite a 15-14 overall record (2-6 conference), Cannon School, with the help of three-year starter McKenzie Moyer, made a run to the state quarterfinals last year. However, the Charlotte Independent School Athletic Association has two of the best teams in the state in Providence Day and Charlotte Christian.

Independent Covenant Classical (6-14) will count on seniors Kristi Watanabe, a strong inside presence and offensive rebounder, and Hannah Stapleton, who is an athletic defensive rebounder.