South Charlotte

Butler and Catholic return strong teams

The South Charlotte News area has produced several of the state's top girls' basketball teams recently, from defending champion Butler to state semifinalist East Mecklenburg and state quarterfinalist Charlotte Catholic.

This year should produce similar results as Butler will begin the season as the favorite to repeat with All-American senior Cierra Burdick, who has committed to Tennessee, back to lead the charge.

Meanwhile, Catholic, who has won more than 90 games in the last five years, should be at the top of the ME-GA 7, and among the top teams in the state.

Butler

Coach: Mark Sanders.

2009-2010 record: 26-4 (NCHSAA 4A state champs).

Key players: G Cierra Burdick, G Aaliyah Kilpatrick.

The Bulldogs have a new leader in coach Mark Sanders after Stephanie Butler was dismissed from the program. After going 92-10 in the last three seasons, the results on the court will look nearly the same with All-American guard Cierra Burdick (19 ppg) back to lead Butler.

The defending 4A state champions also got two of East Meck's best players because of redistricting. Point guard Aaliyah Kilpatrick and shooting guard Jaymee Fisher-Davis will be welcome additions to an offense that will miss center Clair Watkins (Vanderbilt) inside.

Myers Park

Coach: Wes Hepler.

2009-2010 record: 17-10.

Key players: G Carly Hammack, G Mason Jeffries.

The Mustangs and coach Wes Hepler won 17 games last year in what was likely the toughest conference in the state. Now the Mustangs hope to build on that success with senior backcourt duo Carly Hammack and Mason Jeffries. Sisters India (sophomore) and Saadia Timpton (freshman), both Division I recruits, will likely be the team's top scoring options.

Ardrey Kell

Coach: Tina Lawrence.

2009-2010 record: 15-12.

Key players: F Christelle Shembo, PG Oceania Anderson.

The Knights are entering their second year under Tina Lawrence with a renewed confidence after finishing 15-12 last season.

Ardrey Kell returns three key starters led by Christelle Shembo, who averaged 10.6 points and 9.7 rebounds as a sophomore. Shembo will have a solid backcourt in Oceania Anderson and Katelyn White. Add in Alexa Grauer and newcomers Goddess Steele, Mackenzie Crenshaw and Marshae Bradbury, and this team should be better than last year.

East Mecklenburg

Coach: David Wilson.

2009-2010 record: 27-3 (4A state semifinals).

Key players: F Sandra Knox, G Jazmine Kirksey.

After becoming one of the best teams in the state the last two seasons and challenging Butler for conference supremacy, the Eagles will have to rebuild after losing head coach Bradyn Monismith and four starters, including all-state forward, Monet Tellier (Virginia Tech).

East Meck, who will be led by first-year coach David Wilson, will depend on forward Sandra Knox for experience, while sophomore transfer (from Milwaukee) Jazmine Kirksey and freshman forward Ashley Wingo are expected to be immediate impact players.

Providence

Coach: Bill Smith.

2009-2010 record: 10-15.

Key players: G Elena Covert, G Alyson King.

After struggling for years, Providence showed major signs of improvement last year winning 10 games and making the playoffs. Now, coach Bill Smith hopes to move up the ladder with a solid team coming back. Junior guards Elena Covert and Alyson King make up an experienced backcourt that will look to forward Brittany Smith for inside scoring.

Independence

Coach: Natalie Vuoriaho-Davis.

2009-2010 record: 3-19.

Key players: F/C Taylor Smith, G Laquisha Taylor.

The Patriots struggled last year winning only three games, but Independence will look to be much improved this season with a more experienced squad.

Senior center Taylor Smith and senior point guard Laquisa Taylor will be the main offensive weapons.

Sophomore guard Kaitlyn Beaver and junior forward Tierney Hoyle will be key contributors.

South Mecklenburg

Coach: Troy Gaston.

2009-2010 record: 0-23.

The South Mecklenburg girls' basketball team had one of the best programs in the state less than five years ago, but the last few years have been tough times.

This year, the Sabres look to improve as a lot of the teams in the lower half are rebuilding. South Meck should have an opportunity to be more competitive this year and build towards what is hopefully a brighter future.

Rocky River

Coach: Jason Buzzard.

2009-2010 record: First year.

Key players: PG Asia Scott, SG Ashante Bryant.

Rocky River head coach Jason Buzzard begins the Ravens' first year with great expectations.

That process begins with freshman Brandi Segars, who has shown she is ready for varsity competition. Junior Independence transfers Ashante Bryant and Asia Scott should give Rocky River a solid backcourt. Winning consistently will take time, but the Ravens hope to be competitive as a work in progress.

Charlotte Catholic

Coach: Bobby Conrad.

2009-2010 record: 25-4 (3A regional semifinals).

Key players: G Ali Lane, F Laura Haney.

Catholic head coach Bobby Conrad has led his teams to a 92-23 mark in five seasons at the helm. This year, the Cougars should be just as good with senior guard Ali Lane, the reigning ME-GA 7 Player of the Year, back to lead the way after averaging 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in her junior year.

Lane will need some help after losing players like Shawn Heiliger (13 ppg) and Lauren Kobiela (13 ppg) to graduation. The Cougars should get it from players like senior guard Lizzie Henshaw, junior forwards Laura Haney and Onya Edwards, as well freshman guards Sophie Rossitch and Rachael Hendershott.

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