The landscape of private school boys' basketball in North Carolina has changed dramatically in the last five years.
Two of the best new teams to emerge in the Charlotte area are Davidson Day and United Faith Christian, as the two have combined for 105 wins in the last two seasons.
United Faith has been the best team in the state, winning the last two NCISAA 1A state titles and 62 games in the process. Davidson Day has been right on their heels, winning 43 games in the last two seasons, still in the infancy of their basketball program.
Tuesday night, the Patriots and Falcons renew what is becoming a rivalry, where a leg up in the hunt for NCISAA Southern Piedmont Athletic Association title will be at stake.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I think we have to beat them for it to be a rivalry," said Davidson Day basketball coach Ron Johnson. "A lot of people want to put us ahead of where we are as a program. United Faith is still above us, right now, but we are working to get to that level."
United Faith swept Davidson Day in three meetings last season, beating the Patriots by only six in Davidson, but by 33 at home and by 22 in the second round of the playoffs.
"We expect to win every time out," said United Faith basketball coach Shaun Wiseman. "But with all the winning we have done comes a target on our back. We get everybody's best effort. Everyone wants to beat us."
The Patriots (11-5) got off to a strong start at 11-2 before the Christmas break. But since then, injuries have forced the Patriots to adjust to life without power forward Phillip Anglade, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Davidson Day, who had already played without star shooting guard Keith Belfield, now hopes to get as healthy as possible as they enter Southern Piedmont play.
Junior point guard Rashun Davis will be a major key as he and Belfield could be one of the area's best backcourts when both are playing at 100 percent.
Senior forward Bernard Sullivan, whose averaging 15 to go along with 8.5 rebounds per game, will have to be even better than advertised after Anglade's loss. Meanwhile, Patriot forwards Dorrian Albritton, Richard Brown and Jason Eddie, will try to make up for the loss of Anglade on the frontline.
Davidson Day has the talent and depth to play with United Faith, but still has to go out and prove it. The Patriots should be a factor in the SPAA and in the state tournament, but how they handle the Falcons will go a long way in determining just how close they are to being among the state's elite.
United Faith has proved to be one of the best teams in Charlotte, public or private, in the past two years. This year, despite a litany of injuries, the Falcons (16-5) are still the favorite to win the SPAA and challenge for a state title.
United Faith is leaning on their backcourt, with senior Paris Roberts-Campbell, who averages 24 points per game, and Braxton Ogbueze, who adds 17 points a night, starting to establish themselves as one of the best units in the state.
Roberts-Campbell has been nearly unstoppable of late, while Ogbueze has come on after battling injuries to start the season.
Like the Patriots, injuries have taken their toll in the frontcourt, where starters Peter Jurkin (stress fracture in foot) and John Edwards (strained meniscus in knee) are currently out of the lineup. That has forced 6-foot-10 Henry Uwadie, 6-foot-9 Bruno Becca and 7-foot-1 Bradley Fisher to step in earlier than expected.
The Falcons, who are No. 37 in the nation in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 rankings, are still loaded and good enough to beat just about anyone in the state. But expect the Davidson Day game to be tight at least early.