Five players to watch
Coleson Leach, East Lincoln, 6-2, Sr., G: Averaged 17 points per game for preseason Sweet 16 team.
Bryson Price, Draughn, 6-8, Sr., F: Averaged 15 points last season and forms a big 2A front line with 6-5 Jeremiah Daye (15 ppg)
Connor Reed, Lake Norman Charter, 6-1, Sr., G: Reed is one of the best shooters in the area and will be counted on to boost his 12 ppg average from last season.
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Josh Searcy, East Rutherford, 6-5, Sr., F: Averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds for 29-1 N.C. 2A state quarterfinalist.
Blake Wilson, Hunter Huss, 6-6, Sr., F: Wilson averaged 17 points per game for 19-8 team.
Five Teams To Watch
East Lincoln: Four starters return from a 19-9 team. East Lincoln has averaged 23 wins per year and former Mallard Creek coach Jonathan Hancock takes over a talented team. West Lincoln transfer Kabian McClendon, a 6-5 forward, averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds last season.
East Rutherford: Coach Brad Levine is 403-159 at the school, 503-217 overall and was 29-1 last season. Don’t expect much letdown with another talented team on deck.
Lake Norman Charter: Team lost three starters from a 21-8 regional power. Among the graduated are Grayson Hickert and Troy Cracknell, who averaged nearly 40 points per game between them. Reed and Noah Allen return for a team that’s won 61 games in three seasons -- and hopes to keep going.
Lincolnton: The Wolves were 25-2 last season but lost all-state star Sage Surratt. Two starters -- Robbie Cowie (13 ppg) and Chris Robinson (11) -- return to help challenge for the new South Fork 2A conference title.
West Stanly: No, the Colts aren’t your standard-issue, year-in, year-out powerhouse but after a 17-win season in 2016-17 -- the school’s best season in years -- West Stanly could be heading for a third straight playoff appearance led by 6-6 junior forward Hayden Greene (10 ppg, 7 rpg) and 6-foot senior point guard Carter Phillips (5 ppg).
▪ North Lincoln hasn’t won more than six games in a season in the past four years, but coach Tremayne Booker has the most experienced team he’s had at the school. Four starters are back, including a pair of 14 point-per-game scorers from last season: Lance Bailey and Luke Johnson.
▪ West Iredell hopes for its first winning season in six years, led by 5-11 junior Hayden Blohm, who averaged 15.5 points last season.
▪ Draughn was 14-12 last season under coach Yates Jensen. All five starters return, including 6-8 Bryson Price and 6-5 Jeremiah Daye.
▪ Danny Anderson led a big turnaround at Maiden in his first two seasons. Maiden won 33 games combined from 2008-14, but has won 29 in Anderson’s first two. This year, the Blue Devils return three starters from a 15-11 team and seek a third straight playoff berth. Anderson, who has won 673 games, has coached 35 years and been in the playoffs in every one.
▪ Shelby has won 24 games in each of the past three seasons, but returns just two starters (Dax Hollifield and Malik Surratt) and 16 points per game from last season. But coach Aubrey Hollifield’s team has won seven of the past 11 sectional championships. Shelby just knows how to win.
▪ Belmont South Point was 17-11 last season, the best record in school history, and advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. Four starters return, including 6-6 senior Moses Nueman (11 ppg, 5 rpg) and 6-2 senior Blake Zieske (14 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg).