Lake Norman & Mooresville

Mooresville at Hopewell

The Hopewell and Mooresville basketball teams know how each other feel.

After spending most of last season at the bottom of the I-Meck with a young, rebuilding team, Mooresville has climbed the ladder and is off to one of their best starts in recent memory at 7-2, 2-1 (as of Dec. 24) in conference play just behind West Charlotte.

Meanwhile, Hopewell dominated the I-Meck last year, going 11-1 to win the inaugural league title. But the Titans lost six of their top eight players and are now trying to rebuild with a inexperienced team.

While the Titans look to improve, Mooresville has a score to settle after being blown out by Hopewell by 27- and 39-point margins last year.

Both teams have a lot of incentive, as the Blue Devils and Titans try to grab momentum in league play early on.

Mooresville, which averages 77 points per game, will try to push the ball at every chance, getting up and down the court with ultra-talented guards Isaiah Johnson and Shawn Lester.

Meanwhile, Hopewell (4-4, 1-2 in the I-Meck) will look to slow the tempo and play a half-court game.

Which tempo prevails will likely go a long way in deciding who wins this crucial I-Meck conference battle.

Mooresville

After going through several years of growing pains, Mooresville has arrived with a deep, talented and experienced squad that likes to run.

Johnson and Lester lead a team that has scored at will for most of the year, but will be tested in I-Meck play.

Lester, who's averaging 17 points a game, has all the skills and can do it from everywhere on the court. Johnson, meanwhile, has the speed to drive the Mooresville break relentlessly.

Forwards Kendrick Johnson, Dre Howell, Raphael Montgomery, Patrick O'Brien and Kyle Haslett will have to step up their production and prove they can play in the half-court set as well.

The Blue Devils have all kinds of talent and can easily go 10-deep, allowing them to play at a frenetic pace.

This game will likely come down to a battle of tempo. Hopewell will likely try to slow the game to a crawl. Mooresville has to push the ball as much as possible, but will also have to execute when the Titan defense is set.

If Mooresville can establish their tempo, they should be able to beat a Hopewell team still searching for consistent offense.

Hopewell

After enjoying two seasons of domination, going 52-4 in that span, first-year Hopewell basketball coach Damon Bost and his Titans are trying to rebuild on the fly.

So far, Hopewell has had mixed results, losing two of its first three I-Meck games to Lake Norman and West Charlotte.

That makes this game all the more important for a young team looking for its identity and confidence.

Senior point guard Michael Russell has been there before and will be in charge of keeping the tempo of the game as slow as possible.

Russell will need help from shooters Chris Beam, Tyrone Curry, Cameron Burney and Cameron Moore on the perimeter and when the full court pressure comes.

Hopewell will also need interior players like Elliott Pope and Daron Curry to convert easy baskets inside to help control the game, score and clock.

While Hopewell's offense is important, it is their defense that will decide the game. The Titans need to get back and stop the Mooresville break to stay in the game. If they can't force the game to a slower pace, they won't be close enough to win it in the end.

But if the score stays in the 50s or 60s, expect the Titans to gain confidence and have a great chance to win it down the stretch.

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