Lake Norman & Mooresville

Talent, experience helps senior propel her Devils

Mooresville shooting guard Shakirah McLaughlin has been a consistent scorer for the Blue Devils during her four-year career as a starter.

"With me, you have to pick your poison," she said. "I can drive and I can shoot."

Melanie Allen, Mooresville's coach, said McLaughlin's versatility allows her to get good shots for herself and open up the way for her team.

The 5-foot-4 McLaughlin not only leads the way from long distance, but is also very physical against bigger opponents, which enables her to post up and score.

"She plays big for a little guard," said Allen.

McLaughlin said that began when she first started playing basketball when she was 8. Then, she was tall for her age, so she played forward and center. That didn't last very long.

"As I got older, everybody started growing and I didn't," said the 17-year-old. "I got used to guarding bigger people and posting up, which allows me to get more fouls since I'm short."

McLaughlin, who's nearing her 1,000th career point, has averaged in double figures her entire Blue Devil career. She's averaging 14 points per game this year.

"It's been hard," she said about keeping her scoring production up. "Our competition level has grown since 3A, so I've had to step it up."

But McLaughlin does much more than score for Mooresville.

"Kirah is our go-to girl," said Allen. "She's our leader on the floor. She's not very vocal with the girls, but it's her presence on the floor that matters."

While fellow guard DeAsia Faulkner talks and encourages her teammates often, McLaughlin prefers to show the way by example.

"Being on varsity for four years, I know what's going on, the competition level and what we have to do to win," said McLaughlin.

Along the way, McLaughlin also admits she's matured a lot both on and off the court.

"In certain games this season, I know if it had been before, I would have gotten down and taken myself out of the game," said McLaughlin. "But now, I can focus. If something makes me mad, I just get over it and keep going."

With the experience, McLaughlin has also learned to thrive under pressure. That's come in handy being the top returning scorer from last year and only one of a few seasoned players on a young team.

It also came into play during the Blue Devils' season opener against Northwest Cabarrus, during which McLaughlin hit a game-winning 3-pointer with time running out.

"There's something about those big games when everyone's looking for you to score," she said. "I love close situations."

Allen, who's in her second year at the helm of the program, is encouraged by her team's 8-5 start this year.

The Blue Devils (3-3 in the I-Meck) have already surpassed the number of wins from last year's 5-19 season.

"They've worked hard," said Allen. "We're a different team."

Mooresville has been led by its guards, McLaughlin and Faulkner, for the majority of the season, but they've been starting to get better play from their young forwards, sophomores Zana Tatum and Aimee Ellis.

"We're doing good as a team," said McLaughlin. "We have a young team, but they're stepping up big when we need them to."

Allen hopes her team is able to finish the season strong, getting started offensively earlier in games before her Blue Devils dig a hole too deep to climb out of. That was the case against North Mecklenburg at the East Lincoln Winter Jam, where Mooresville came back after a 12-point halftime deficit, behind McLaughlin's 27 points, but came up three-points short of the Vikings.

"When you get down in our conference, it's hard to rally back," said Allen.

McLaughlin wants her team to upset a few teams the rest of the season and reach the 4A playoffs.

"We can only go up from where we are now," she said.

McLaughlin doesn't have many personal goals, although one quickly comes to mind.

"I want to beat Lake Norman," she said. "I refuse to lose to them my senior year."