With a renewed focus on defense and conditioning by first-year head coach Aaron Reeves, Lake Norman Charter has seen success on the basketball court this season.
The Knights have won more games than any team in program history and have found a way to stay competitive in their first season as members of the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference.
Juniors Hayden Goins, Alex Scearce and Jamon Cunningham have played a big role in that success.
Goins, who averages more than 10 points a game to lead the team, has been the primary scorer for Lake Norman Charter. Reeves said that since he arrived at the school this past summer, he's worked hard to fit in and improve him game.
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"It's paid off," said Reeves.
Goins, a 6-foot shooting guard, started the year with a statement, scoring 21 points, including the game-winning basket, against a favored Hough team.
Reeves said that win - as well as starting 7-3 on the year - were big for the team.
"Kids tend to get to get frustrated if they aren't successful right away, you start to see a lot of sagging heads," he said. "So being successful early was probably one of the keys to the whole season."
Goins had been dangerous from the perimeter. He made eight 3-pointers on his way to scoring a season-high 30 points in a 78-52 loss to Kennedy Charter
"I know that if I make a jump shot, they start falling for me after that," said Goins.
Scearce, a 6-foot-2 forward, and Cunningham, a 5-foot-10 point guard, have been big on both sides of the ball.
Scearce, who averages more than nine points per game, uses his size to grab rebounds and score on put-backs or while driving to the basket. Even though he's scored 10 or more points eight times this season, the athletic 17-year-old admits to enjoy playing defense more than putting big numbers on offense.
"When I get the ball, I'm not really looking to score," said Scearce. "I'm looking to drive and get the ball to one of my shooters."
Cunningham, in the meantime, is the team's defensive specialist.
"I love defense more than offense," he said. "Without defense, we wouldn't have won half the games we have."
Reeves said Cunningham, who averages six points a game, is Lake Norman Charter's leader on the court.
"He's the one who dictates our energy on the court," said Reeves.
Goins said that the team has also benefited from its unselfishness.
"We play team ball," said Goins. "That's how we win."
Although Goins has been forced to sit out at least four games while healing from an ankle injury he suffered in practice before the Bessemer City game last month, the Knights stayed competitive during that stretch.
During Goins' time out, Davis Elkins stepped up for the Knights, scoring 25 and 16 points against Lincolnton and Cherryville during that span.
Elkins, who averages more than eight points a game, isn't the only other Lake Norman Charter who's contributing. Reeves said that sophomores Mitchell Venator, who moved up from junior varsity recently, and Michael Dorsainvil have played well, while junior Paul Mobely III has been big at small forward, allowing Scearce to come off the court when he needs a breather.
Although the Knights (10-7 heading into Jan.27's game against East Lincoln) have done well, they've struggled to close out tight games, losing three games this year by three or less points.
But Reeves has been happy with the team's discipline, dedication and chemistry.
Having played themselves out of competition for first place, Lake Norman Charter (5-4 in SPC play heading into East Lincoln game) is aiming to finish second in the conference and making the program's first trip to the postseason.
"It'd be a big deal," said Scearce.
Although there is still a lot of basketball to be played, Goins and his classmates can't help but look forward to next year - when the Knights return everybody but two seniors, who have combined for six points a game this season.
"It's going to be fun," said Goins. "We can have even higher goals."