Resilient Spiders shoot for championship

Should it win the upcoming conference tournament, the Concord High boys basketball team will have captured its sixth straight South Piedmont 3A postseason championship.

That would match its sixth consecutive regular-season title, which it clinched last week.

The Spiders have built their dynasty while overcoming doubts they could be as good, let alone better, than the season before.

This year's team had five players returning from the 2010-11 squad, which reached the regional semifinals. Still, Concord has turned in a surprising regular season (undefeated through 21 games, a school-record winning streak) that may leave it even more optimistic than last year about its state tournament chances.

A year ago, the Spiders were coming off a season in which they reached the 3A state championship game. Last year's Concord team rolled over opponents by an average margin of victory of 20 points a game, eclipsing the 100-point mark in numerous contests.

Concord finished with a 25-4 record but lost three starters, each of whom averaged 10 points a game for most of the season. The most notable loss was athletically gifted guard Jacquise Moore, a four-year varsity player.

Coming out of 2011 summer play and off-season workouts, though, coach Scott Brewer raved about his team, emphasizing how strong the chemistry was among his returning and new players.

"I knew going into the season we weren't as athletic as we have been," said Brewer. "But we certainly were skilled. ... They're all good kids and they get along. People had an idea the Spiders were going to be down because of the athleticism. But they come to play and they have a lot of fight in them."

Led by what Brewer calls "The Big Three" guards - senior Kendall Knorr (17 ppg.), junior Darren Black (17 ppg.), and sophomore Connor Burchfield (19 ppg.) - Concord has a core of experienced, heady players.

"Going into the season ... I thought we might have a shaky season," said Black. "We have some newcomers that needed to learn but they got into it like they had been there before. It was like we hadn't missed a beat."

With the exception of 6-foot-7 junior B.J. Beecher and sophomore Jerry Burk, the other key contributors this season are newcomers: senior Tameko Williams, junior Reid Aube, sophomore Graham Pruette, and freshman Rocky Reid.

Concord remains undefeated despite a challenging schedule. The Spiders' have played, and defeated, Mount Tabor, Hopewell and T.C. Roberson, all solid 4A programs, and ran the table on three solid South Carolina teams at a Rock Hill Christmas tournament.

One of Concord's most satisfying wins was its second victory over city rival Robinson, who was vying to topple the Spiders off their South Piedmont Conference perch. Concord trailed several times in the fourth quarter only to prevail 76-73.

The basics of Concord's traditional up-tempo style of play are still in place but the Spiders' 78 points per game scoring average is about 10 points off of last year's pace. Of course, opponents are scoring 10 fewer points per game, leaving Concord's 20-point average margin of victory about the same.

Offensively, the unselfish Spiders pass the ball around like a basket of rolls at the dinner table. They exhibit an admirable patience, allowing everyone to get looks at the basket.

Feeling out the rest of the season, Knorr feels the key will be the effectiveness of the Spiders' defense. Giving up 94 points to Hickory in their regional loss last year still stings.

"Obviously to win, you have to score more points (than the opponent)," said Knorr. "Against Hickory, they shot the lights out against us. You have to play defense to win. That's what it will come down to down the stretch. If you can stop people from scoring, you have a better chance of winning."