University City

Northside point guard came ready to play

It had been a long time since the Northside Christian Academy girls basketball team had won a game.

While the boys team was winning big and advancing to the final game of the state tournament, the girls were getting blown out almost every night.

Their 36 straight losses spanned 673 days, nearly two full years. Their closest loss was by five points. The next closest was a 15-point loss, and many of the games were over before the first quarter ended.

Then the Knights defeated Metrolina Christian in the first game of the season, snapping the losing streak and putting a new attitude in place.

"Playing Northside used to be an easy game for opponents to play. It's not going to be that way this year," said first-year head coach Matt Mann. "It doesn't mean we will beat every team that comes in here to play us, but we won't quit, and they will have to fight to win."

Last year, which already seems like a distant memory, they topped 30 points just three times as a team. This year, behind Mann and superstar freshman point guard Raven Mobley, the Knights are flying high.

Mobley averaged 29.3 points per game by herself through the first three games. Her 19.9 points per game average has her team's spirits high.

"I think we have already begun to change the culture of the team and the program. After we won our first game, people asked who won as they came in for the boys' game. They were shocked that we actually won," Mobley said.

She said coming into the year, she knew she was going to be the starting point guard on the varsity team and had already prepared to play.

Mann heard she was a good player and was on an AAU team, but was shocked by how well she could shoot and how quick a release Mobley had. She also passed well, played defense and could blow by a defender if they jumped out on her.

"I say she is like dynamite because she can explode at any minute," Mann said.

Mobley has exploded onto the high school basketball scene and scored 26.34 and 28 points in her first three games, easily leading the area in scoring. She also averages 4.0 steals, 2.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

Darryl Rankin, Mobley's personal trainer and AAU coach for the Charlotte Huskies, isn't surprised how quickly she started. He said she averages about 30 points for his team.

"Raven is touched by God. Some people are just blessed, and she is one of those people. There is no shot she can't make, and she is such a quick learner," Rankin said.

"I was mesmerized when I first saw all that she can do, and I tried everything I could to rattle her and see if she was for real. She amazes me all the time."

Rankin and Mann both said the thing that really separates Mobley is her understanding of the game and her basketball IQ.

"You tell her something once and never have to say another word about it, because she got it and the same mistakes won't happen again," Rankin said. "She is a great player and a tireless worker, that is the only way I can explain her to you."

Mobley said she started playing at age 4 and joined her first AAU team at age 10. Her goal is to play in college, and Rankin expects offers to start coming soon.

"My basketball IQ and passion comes from me loving the game of basketball," she said.

"I am a student of the game and try to be as good as every aspect of the game as I can."

Mobley is the Knights' best player and the best player on the Huskies AAU team, but Rankin said she is the hardest worker and one of the most unselfish players and humble people he has encountered.

"I try to get everyone involved because I don't want anyone to feel left out. If everyone is involved, they will be ready when we need them, not thinking that one or two players will take every shot," Mobley said.

So far, the Knights have spread the ball around well. Junior guard Bryce Freeland is averaging about nine points per game, senior forward Mary Ashley Badgett averages 8.4 points and 8.8 rebounds and sophomore forward Cayla Patterson contributes three points and nine rebounds.

The Knights, with Mobley running the team, are going to be competitive in almost every game.

"Our team is excited and knows that we are going to do well," Mobley said. "Once we start winning some more, people are going to believe, and that will carry us through the year."

By the time she is a senior, the memory of last year will be long forgotten, and the Knights girls team should be one of the best in the state.

If Mobley has her way, it will happen this year.

"We are still learning how to make the extra pass to the open man and play as a team," Mobley said.

"We are already good right now, but when we get on the same page and come together, we are going to be that much better. We have some work to do, but when we get there, we are going to be good."