It’s been 10 years since Charlotte Country Day’s boys basketball team won a conference title. And since the Buccaneers finished 20-8 in February of 2008, Country Day has not had another winning season.
That could change Tuesday night.
Country Day beat rival Charlotte Latin 68-55 on the road Monday to improve to 16-8. With one more win, the Bucs would guarantee themselves a winning season, and Country Day (16-8, 3-1 CISAA) would also be on track to win another conference championship, too. Country Day is tied with Providence Day (18-9, 3-1) for second place in the CISAA behind Charlotte Christian (16-6, 4-0).
The Bucs play at Providence Day Tuesday night in a game that -- if Country Day can pull off the upset -- could put the Chargers’ run of five straight league championships in serious jeopardy, and propel Country Day towards just its fourth title in 33 seasons.
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According to Observer records, the Bucs most recent league championships came in 2008, 1993 and 1985. Country Day hasn’t beaten Providence Day since January 2012. The Chargers have won the past 12 meetings.
Country Day has a real chance to end that streak Tuesday night.
“I’m excited for the guys,” Country Day coach Dwayne Cherry said. “This was a group that came in as freshman -- (juniors) Rylan McLaurin, Myles Browner, Alex Tabor and Triston Miller -- and we had kind of circled this year as what we thought could be a special season.”
Miller, a 6-foot-6, 275-pounder, has gravitated to football and left the basketball team. An all-conference junior offensive lineman, Miller has committed to play college football at Wake Forest, but is still piling up offers. He got offered by Tennessee last week. Without Miller, Country Day would’ve been small. But last season, DeAngelo Epps, a bullish 6-foot-5 forward, transferred from West Charlotte. Epps, another junior, has become the Bucs star.
He is averaging 18.7 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Tabor (12 points, 2.2 rebounds) -- who set a school-record with nine made 3-pointers against national power Greensboro Day -- and McLaurin (10.4 points, 6.5 assists) also average double-figures.
Led by its collection of juniors, Country Day has piled up a few signature wins, like a 72-67 decision over Charlotte Catholic in November on the road (Catholic is now No. 5 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll); and one-point win over a Hough team in December that looks like bona-fide 4A playoff group.
Country Day also played Greensboro Day to a six-point game in December and lost by six to Sweet 16 No. 2 Independence a few weeks after that.
But Cherry’s Bucs really got going after an embarrassing 73-38 loss to Charlotte Christian at home Jan. 9. Down 10 at halftime, Cherry saw his team fall apart in the third quarter. Christian ran its lead to 23 and Cherry decided to sit his starters.
“It looked like we had no life,” Cherry said. “You could see that mentally, we weren’t in it. I said, ‘Let’s give the other kids a shot.’ In some ways that’s the best thing that has happened. (The starters) talked about it. They were a little upset with me, but it sent a statement that if you’re not ready to play, I’ll give somebody else a chance. They’ve been different since then.”
After the Christian loss, the Bucs beat Concord Cannon School on the road by two, stopping a perennial state title contender that features national top 100 recruit Jairus Hamilton, who has committed to Boston College. After that came wins over Covenant Day, Asheville School and Monday’s win at Charlotte Latin -- made possible by a second quarter when the Bucs held Latin to six points.
Epps finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds Monday. Tabor made five 3-point shots and had 15 points.
And now, Cherry has his team set on chasing a league title. He was part of the 1992-93 team that finished 23-4 and won a conference crown.
“The guys seem to be a lot more locked in now,” Cherry said. “The effort is there defensively, and we’re doing a better job rebounding and offensively, we’re taking better shots. Like I said, the guys just seemed more locked in and focused on both ends of the floor.”
↑United Faith girls defense: Falcons allowed just one point to North Hills Christian in the third quarter of a 61-36 win Monday. United Faith led 38-22 at halftime but ended the game with the third quarter defensive effort.
↑Charlotte Latin girls: Hawks (12-7, 3-1) got 21 points from UNC signee Claudia Dickey and beat rival Charlotte Country Day 62-39 Monday. Latin its fourth straight game and pulled even with the Bucs (8-10, 3-1) for second place in the CISAA behind league-leading Providence Day (18-5, 4-0).
↑Reigan Richardson, Hickory Ridge girls: Named N.C. High School Athletic Association girls performer of the week for Jan. 8-13. The freshman averaged 14 points and seven rebounds in three games.
↑Jaden Springer, Rocky River: Sophomore All-American has 994 career points heading into Tuesday’s game at Myers Park.
↑Kings Mountain’s Big 3: Zeke Littlejohn (22 points, six rebounds, four assists), Adrian Delph (20 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds) and Eli Paysour (17 points, 12 rebounds) led the Mountaineers to an 82-46 win Monday over Belmont Stuart Cramer.
↑Ardren Christ School: longtime N.C. private school power beat Concord Cannon School 66-62 on the road Monday to win its eighth straight game. National top 15 recruit Jalen Lecque, a 6-4 junior, finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. Christ School has won eighth straight games.
So why is Christian Laettner at Garinger?
So why is the former Duke All-American spending the week coaching and teaching with the boys’ team at Garinger High School?
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Monday’s #BIG5 Performers
Breya Busby, Ryan Swilling, United Faith girls: Busby, a freshman, had 22 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and four assists in a 61-36 win over Salisbury’s North Hills Christian. Swilling, an eighth grader playing varsity, had 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal.
DeAngelo Epps, Charlotte Country Day: 23 points, 10 rebounds in a 68-55 win over Charlotte Latin.
Cameron June, Gastonia Ashbrook: 24 points in a 71-43 win over Lawndale Burns.
Shamicah Sturdivant, Sugar Creek Charter: Scored 17 of her game-high 29 points in the second half of a 49-44 win over Community School of Davidson. Sturdivant also had seven rebounds, three blocks, three steals and two assists for Sugar Creek Charter (13-5).
Alex Tabor, Charlotte Country Day: junior sharpshooter made five 3-point shots and had 15 points in the Latin win.
Tuesday’s Key Games
Charlotte Country Day (16-8, 3-1 CISAA) at Providence Day (18-9, 3-1), Tues, 7:30: Both teams are chasing Charlotte Christian (16-6, 4-0) in the league standings. A loss by either team would severely damage its title hopes.
Hickory (14-2, 7-1 Northwestern 3A/4A) at Morganton Freedom (16-1, 7-1), Tues, 7:30: Freedom has won 11 straight games and faces its rival for first place in the league. Hickory beat Freedom 85-74 in December.
Lincolnton (14-2, 7-1 South Fork) at East Lincoln (14-4, 7-1), Tuesday, 7:30: Old rivals are tied for first place in conference and both riding long win streaks: seven games for East Lincoln and nine for Lincolnton.
Rocky River (12-4, 5-2 Southwestern 4A) at Myers Park (12-5, 5-2), Tuesday, 7:30: Both teams are tied for third place behind Butler (16-2, 6-2) and Independence (16-1, 7-0). Rocky River plays Butler Thursday. Myers Park plays at Butler Friday.
North Mecklenburg (16-1, 7-0 I-MECK) at West Charlotte (13-5, 6-2), Tues, 7:30: North Meck hasn’t played since Jan. 12 and goes to visit its arch rival in a game between the two top teams in the league. The Lions look to avenge a 78-60 loss to North Meck in December -- and to get back into the league title chase.
Albemarle at North Moore
Alexander Central at Watauga
Anson County at Mount Pleasant
Arborbrook Christian at Comenius
Ardrey Kell at West Mecklenburg
Ashbrook at Forestview
Avery County at Madison
Bandys at Newton Conover
Bessemer City at Highland Tech
Bible Baptist at Community Christian
Boiling Springs at Clover
Bunker Hill at Fred T. Foard
Central Cabarrus at Jay M. Robinson
Central Pageland at Andrew Jackson
Charlotte Christian at Covenant Day
Charlotte Country Day at Providence Day
Charlotte Latin at Cannon School
Charlotte Learning Center at Mountain Island Charter
Cheraw at Buford
Cherryville at Thomas Jefferson Academy
Community School of Davidson at Carolina International
Concord at A.L. Brown
Concord First Assembly at Gaston Christian
Cox Mill at Northwest Cabarrus
Crest at Stuart Cramer
Davidson Day at Calvary Baptist Day
East Gaston at East Rutherford
East Mecklenburg at Independence
Elkin at Ashe County
Fairfield Central at Indian Land
Fort Mill at Nation Ford
Governor’s School at Great Falls
Grace Academy at Greater Cabarrus Stallions
Harding at Providence Hickory at Freedom
Hickory Grove at Gaston Day
Hickory Ridge at Garinger
Hopewell at Vance
Hunter Huss at Burns
Kings Mountain at North Gaston
Lake Norman at Mallard Creek
Lake Norman Charter at North Lincoln
Lake Norman Christian at The John Crosland School
Lee Central at Chesterfield
Lincoln Academy at York Prep (Boys’ only)
Lincoln Charter at Piedmont Charter
Lincolnton at East Lincoln
McBee at Lewisville
Metrolina Christian at Westminster Catawba
North Iredell at East Rowan
North Mecklenburg at West Charlotte
North Rowan at North Stanly
Northwestern at Rock Hill
Oak Grove at South Rowan
Patton at Draughn
Queens Grant at Bradford Prep
Rocky River at Myers Park
R.S. Central at Chase
St. Stephens at McDowell
Salisbury at Central Davidson
Shelby at South Point
South Caldwell at West Caldwell
South Davidson at Gray Stone Day
SouthLake Christian at Northside Christian
South Mecklenburg at Olympic
South Pointe (SC) at Berry
Statesville at West Rowan
Uwharrie Charter at South Stanly
Union Academy at Pine Lake Prep
United Faith at Hickory Christian
Victory Christian at Woodlawn School
West Lincoln at Maiden
West Iredell at East Burke