Lake Norman & Mooresville

Game of the week: North Mecklenburg at Hopewell

Since Hopewell's doors opened in 2001, the school has developed a heated rivalry with fellow Huntersville school North Mecklenburg.

Friday night, the grudge match renews itself on the basketball court with new meaning as first-year Titan coach Damon Bost takes on his former mentor in the Vikings' Duane Lewis.

North Meck and Hopewell will battle for early position in the I-Meck standings in front of what is usually a standing-room only crowd.

After struggling last year, the Vikings are off to a strong start at 11-2 overall, including 2-1 in the league play, with their only loss coming to first-place West Charlotte.

The Vikings have been led by their dynamic backcourt of Carlin Bremner and Shivaughn Wiggins. Bremner is averaging more than 21 points per game, while Wiggins is scoring 10 points and dishing eight assists per contest.

On the hand, after dominating the league the past two year, Hopewell (4-6, 1-2) desperately needs a win.

The Titans, who have won the last four meetings with North Meck, are looking for their identity this season after losing six of eight top players to graduation.

Senior center Elliott Pope, who averages nine points a game, and classmate Michael Russell, who averages six points, need to lead a roster that lacks experience in this type of environment.

North Mecklenburg

The Vikings have been one of the most consistent teams in the state under Lewis for the last 13 seasons.

But last year, the Vikings did not play up to their standards, going 12-10, finishing near the bottom of the I-Meck standings.

This season has been a different story, as the Vikings have flourished in a guard-oriented offense.

Bremner and Wiggins have led the charge with their ability to penetrate, score and create opportunities for teammates.

Seniors Kenny Tucker and Karl Barkley are both great outside shooters who benefit from opponents' focus on Bremner and Wiggins.

Meanwhile, senior forward Jermaine Forte, junior Rashun Sifford and sophomore Tahjai Watt have improved as an undersized unit inside, but the group must keep getting more productive for the Vikings to contend for an I-Meck title.

North Meck hasn't defeated Hopewell since the 2007-08 season, when they won 66-64 at Hopewell. But for the first time in a while, the Vikings appear to have the superior talent going into this game and they want to prove it on the court.

After losing several tight games to the Titans in the past two seasons, the Vikings are looking for revenge.

Hopewell

After dominating its conference for the last two seasons, Hopewell is in rebuilding mode so far this season with a new coach and a lot of new faces on the roster.

Bost needs Pope and Russell, the team's most experienced seniors, to make the transition from role players to leaders.

Pope, Daron Curry and Darius Smalls need to convert easy opportunities inside to help out a Hopewell offense that has struggled for most of the year.

Meanwhile, Russell leads a backcourt by committee that includes Chris Beam, Cameron Burney, Tyrone Curry and Cameron Moore.

The collective Titan backcourt will need to match Bremner and Wiggins' speed and energy if Hopewell is going to stay in the game.

The Titans need the game to be played in the 50s or 60s at highest. If the pace gets any faster, Hopewell could get the upper hand.

While North Meck looks better on paper, this rivalry game usually comes down to the final minutes. With a lot on the line, including conference position and bragging rights, it will likely come down to who executes best late in the game.

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