Concord freshman Nakiah Black, the Lady Spiders' leading scorer, is glad to have her cousin, senior Emia Black, on her team.
"It's been very helpful," Nakiah said. "She's always there for me."
Concord girls' basketball coach Angela Morton said the cousins' chemistry is easy to see on the court.
"They play really well together," she said. "They have a strong connection."
Emia, who has played basketball with Nakiah since they were in opposing teams at the Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County growing up, agreed.
"We know how each other plays and the next move that we're going to make," said Emia, adding that their familiarity has helped them in game situations.
"It catches defenses off guard, because she'll make a move and I'll be at the right place, at the right time for her to make a pass," Emia said.
Morton said Emia has been unselfish with her cousin, even though both play point guard. Her senior cousin has been a good role model for Nakiah, taking time to give her advice and serving as a calming influence before and during big games.
That has helped Nakiah get off to an impressive start. She averages 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds a game.
"When a freshman's doing that for you, you have to be happy," said Morton.
But Nakiah's breakthrough year isn't a surprise. Morton said she started playing pickup basketball with the team when she was in seventh grade, having Emia and her other cousin, four-year Spiders starter Mariah Black, on the team.
Nakiah was even Concord's manager last season, so Morton knew what kind of player she was getting.
"We all expected great things out of her," she said.
Nakiah said she's just happy to contribute to the team and admitted she's had to adjust to the up-tempo high school pace.
"This makes it seem like everybody in middle school was running in slow motion," the 15-year-old said.
Emia, who averages 11 points and four assists a game, has also had to go through an adjustment this season, moving to her current position after playing shooting guard during her first two years on the Spiders' varsity squad.
The speedy 17-year-old admits the transition has been difficult at times.
"I have a bigger role than I had last year" and has had to work on becoming a better leader, said Emia.
"When everyone wants to go into a panic, I have to be the one to calm them down," she said.
Emia said she has struggled to slow her pace when she has the ball in her hands. Nakiah said she tries to remind her cousin of that when she gets carried away.
"We have to tell her to slow it down," said Nakiah. "She's like a little roadrunner."
The Spiders, who have started the year 7-6, got off to a slow start this season, largely because of their lack of depth and their inexperience. But they have picked it up in South Piedmont Conference play. Concord was 5-2 in the conference heading into the Jan. 20 game against Northwest Cabarrus.
Aside from the Black cousins, senior Alleson Briggs has been having a good season, helping the Spiders not only with her scoring and rebounding, but also with her leadership. First-year Concord player Brianna Townsend, a senior who averages two 3-pointers a game, has also contributed.
"On paper, this team isn't as talented as some of our past teams, but they work as hard, play well together and have certainly lived up to my expectations," said Morton.
As Hickory Ridge and Jay M. Robinson - the top two teams in the SPC - have yet to play at Concord, Morton hopes her Spiders will close out the regular season strong and win another conference title.
"This team really wants to be great," said Morton. "There's a certain expectation at Concord, and they're working hard to uphold that."
The cousins admitted that representing the Black family on the basketball court is another big motivator.
"It makes me come out and play hard every game," said Nakiah, whose older brother, Darren, is the starting point guard on the boys' team.
Their cousin, Mariah, was part of the Lady Spiders' 2008 state championship team.
"She set a high standard," said Emia. "Hopefully we'll go out there and win it this year."
Nakiah also wants to replicate that success and even chose to wear Mariah's No. 25 jersey for Concord.
Morton said eighth-grader Jada Black, Mariah's younger sister, has shown tremendous promise and could be a standout when she arrives at the school next year.
"We're going to have 10 years with somebody from the Black family on our team," said Morton.