When Charlotte Catholic won the N.C. 3A state football championship in December, the wife of the Cougars basketball coach leaned into her husband, as they watched from the stands, and made him a challenge.
Tara King looked at Mike King, and then she whispered to him: “It’s your turn now.”
And King and the basketball-playing Cougars have pulled off the back half of this state championship double before. After the football team won the N.C. 4A championship in December 2015, King and the basketball Cougars polished off a 32-1 season with the school’s first state basketball championship about three months later.
It had been 53 years since a 4A team had won football and basketball state championships in the same school year. It may not take that long for Charlotte to repeat the double championship, this time in 3A.
“We’ve got a team, from a chemistry standpoint, that is very, very similar to the (state championship team),” King said after Friday’s 67-42 win over Weddington. “They’re guys who have grown up with one another and been to the (local Catholic) elementary schools and middle schools. They’ve played together their whole lives. They enjoy playing together. Will this group be as fortunate as the (2016) team to have a run like that? Tell you what, it would be nice to have that opportunity.”
Catholic (15-3) has won seven straight games after Friday’s win, powered by 17 points from Matt Ciccone. The Cougars aren’t fueled with stars. Ciccone has committed to Bridgewater (Virginia) College and teammate Nick Scibelli committed to Macalester (Minnesota) College in preseason.
But much like the football team, Catholic takes what might be average players on other teams and makes them into much more when they’re wearing red. Some of it is coaching. Some of it is pride. Some of it, in truth, is the fact that the kids know and like each other because they’ve always been teammates. And friends.
King, 40, is in his 10th season. His first three seasons were slow. He didn’t have a winning record. But since then, he’s produced six winning seasons in seven years – and that magical state championship. He’s proven himself to be as good a coach as you’ll find in the area, running up a winning record in an area that’s overstuffed with Division I college recruits with teams usually devoid of them.
This year’s team has a shot a title, but it’ll face a rocky path to the finals that could include some combination of Sweet 16 powers Concord Cox Mill, Morganton Freedom, Hickory and Kings Mountain. Not to mention out-of-area powers like Mount Tabor and Greensboro Smith.
But just like he did in 2016, King is simply saying he likes his chances.
“We’re playing some really good basketball and we’re really defending,” he said. “If we’re going to be able to make a run like we did before, we’ll have to keep defending like we did that year. We’re holding teams to some low quarters and have been able to get some nice leads. If we keep doing that, we’ve got as good a chance as anybody else.”
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↑Brian Field, Providence Day: won his 223rd career game at his alma mater to become the all-time winningest boys coach. After Friday’s 93-80 win at Charlotte Latin, Field has led his team to a sixth straight 20-win season.
↑Khalil Chapman, Queen Grant: monster game in a 61-56 win over Mountain Island Charter: 12 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks. LB Boyette (13 points, seven rebounds), Jeremiah Murphy (16 points, six rebounds) and Jah’Quez Sanders (13 points, five assists, five rebounds) provided plenty of support.
↑Tyler Andersen, Metrolina Christian: made 6-of-9 3-point attempts in Friday’s 67-55 win over Hickory Grove. He finished with 21 points. Teammates Stephen Clark (13 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks), Tate Johnson (13 points, four assists, three rebounds) and Tyler Nelson (10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals) had strong games.
↓Indian Trail Sun Valley: The Spartans lost their second game in two nights after winning four in a row. But Sun Valley has lost leading scorer Ethan Legrand (torn meniscus, surgery next Thursday) and leading rebounder Dorian Shinhoster (concussion). Coach Keith Mason started four sophomores in Friday’s 62-51 loss to Monroe. Monroe sophomore Salen Streater had 30 points.
↑Morganton Freedom: beat West Caldwell 85-69 to win the 900th game in school history. Freedom is 17-2 this season and No. 10 in the Sweet 16. All-time, the Patriots are 900-305. Friday night, Fletcher Abee, Tobias Kanipe and Jakari Dula each had 17 points. Trevon Hall had 29 for West Caldwell.
In the Spotlight: Former Mallard Creek/UNC star Marquise Williams
Mallard Creek High School honored one of its all-time greatest athletes at halftime of Friday’s boys basketball game with West Charlotte, celebrating the career of former Mavericks quarterback Marquise Williams.
In high school, Williams was a Parade, SuperPrep and Tom Lemming All-American. Rivals.com rated him the No. 9 dual-threat QB in the nation. As a senior he threw for 3,034 yards and 45 touchdowns and he rushed for 1,147 yards and 19 scores.
With the Tar Heels, Williams played four seasons and started 33 games. He helped North Carolina win an ACC Coastal Division championship in 2015, and he owns more than 20 school records. He had 99 total touchdowns in his career.
Following his senior season in Chapel Hill, Williams signed with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers but was cut before the 2016 season. Williams signed with the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders for the 2017 season. He dressed for eight regular-season games as the backup quarterback before placed on the six-game injured list.
Laettner leads Garinger to win
Former Duke All-American Christian Laettner coached Garinger High to a rare win Friday.
Laettner spent several days this week with the Wildcats this week, while filming a new reality TV series called “Z Team,” which will air on the International Olympic Committee’s new Olympic Channel. The idea is to pair a former NBA and Olympic player with a struggling or developing high school or college team, let them work with the players and coach them in a big game.
Before Friday, Garinger was 3-16 this season. The Wildcats won four games in 2016-17 and haven’t had a winning season since 2005-06. You might remember Garinger’s football team ended a six-year, 55-game losing streak last September.
Laettner and the Wildcats beat East Meck Friday at home.
Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers
Seth Bennett, Charlotte Christian: In an 81-39 win over Rabun Gap, Bennett had his first career triple-double: 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists
Devon Dotson, Isaac Suffren, Providence Day: Dotson had a triple double (27 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) in a 93-80 win at Charlotte Latin. Suffren had a solid floor game (23 points, seven rebounds, two assists).
Jackson Gabriel, Levontae Knox, Lincoln Charter: In an 88-54 win over Bessemer City, Knox had 22 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals. Gabriel took four charges and had 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. He made six 3-point shots.
Wendell Moore, Leaky Black, Cox Mill: In an 87-59 win over Concord, Moore had 26 points, 10 rebounds. Black, who once played at Concord, had 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Eli Paysour, Adrian Delph, Zeke Littlejohn, Kings Mountain: In an 86-74 win over Gastonia Huss, Littlejohn scored his 1,000th career point and had 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists. Delph scored his 1,000th point at Kings Mountain, and had 24 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists. And Paysour led the team with 27 points, 11 rebounds.
By The Numbers
11: Combined points for East Burke in the second and fourth quarters of a 70-31 loss to Morganton Patton (15-5, 9-0 NWFAC). Patton got 19 points from Tripp Causby.
10-14: Shots made and shots attempted for Gaston Day senior Nate Hinton in a 75-64 win over Northside Christian. Hinton, a Houston signee, finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. He made 11-of-14 free throw attempts.
40: Combined points for Rock Hill Northwestern cousins Zay Martin and Chris Leach. Martin had 27 points, including five 3-pointers. Leach had 13 points.
48: combined points for Lincolnton’s Robbie Cowie and Kris Robinson in a 79-40 win over Catawba Bandys. Lincolnton is 15-3.
53: combined points for Concord Cannon’s Jairus Hamilton (19 points, six rebounds, three steals), Qon Murphy (17 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists) and Alex Cox (17 points, five rebounds) in a 80-51 win at Covenant Day.
1000: Hickory’s JaQuan Thurman had 11 points in a 66-27 win over South Caldwell Friday for the Red Tornadoes, No. 9 in the Sweet 16. He also scored his 1,000th career point.
Sweet 16 Spotlight
No. 1 North Mecklenburg 65, Hopewell 41: The Vikings (19-1, 10-0 I-MECK) won their 12th straight game behind 15 points, 10 rebounds from Jae’Lyn Withers, 15 points from Tristan Maxwell and eight points, four assists from Demar Anderson.
No. 2 Independence 79, Indian Trail Porter Ridge 49: The Patriots (19-1, 10-0 Southwestern 4A) maintained a two-game conference lead over Rocky River (15-4, 8-2). Independence won easily Friday, leading 46-21 at half. Andra’ McKee led Indy with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists. Jamarius Burton (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Matthew Smith (11 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks) and Raja Milton (10 points, eight assists, five steals, two rebounds) also had strong games.
No. 4 Butler 70, Myers Park 55: The Bulldogs (17-3, 7-3 Southwestern 4A) bounced back from Thursday’s heartbreaking loss at Rocky River with a controlled win over Myers Park. Raquan Brown had a team-high 21 points, Gerrale Gates had 19 and DJ Little 13. Myers Park (13-7, 6-4) got 24 from John Ingram and 16 from Duwe Farris.
No. 6 Rocky River 79, Harrisburg Hickory Ridge 44: One night after getting one of the biggest wins in school history against Butler, Rocky River got an easy win, getting big minutes from its bench. All-America sophomore Jaden Springer had 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead the team.
No. 8 Marshville Forest Hills 74, West Stanly 47: Nas Tyson had 23 points and Trey Belin 15 in an easy win for the Yellow Jackets (16-2, 5-0 Rocky River). Hayden Green had 18 for West (9-9, 3-2).
No. 12 Charlotte Christian 81, Rabun Gap 39: After struggling to beat Charlotte Country Day in overtime Thursday, the Knights (19-6, 6-0 CISAA) bounced back with an easy win Friday. Efosa U-Edosomwan had 15 points, six assists and five rebounds. Point guard JC Tharrington had 14 points, seven assists and just one turnover. Christian will host Providence Day (20-9, 5-1) Tuesday in a game that could determine the league championship. The Knights are 0-4 at home against Providence Day since 2013.
No. 13 Providence Day 93, Charlotte Latin 80: At home, Charlotte Latin (9-12, 1-5 CISAA) came out hot in front of a big crowd and led by one after the first quarter. The Chargers (20-9, 5-1) outscored the Hawks 44-29 over the next two quarters. Trey Wertz, in bed for two days with the flu, had 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, and sophomore center John Miralia had 13 points for Providence Day, including a big alley-oop dunk from Wertz in the fourth quarter. JP Smith had 19 and Jack Felkner 17 for Latin.
Ardrey Kell 61, South Meck 42: Navy recruit David Kasanganay had 19 points to lead the Knights (16-4, 7-2 SoMeck) to a third win this week. Kasanganay now has 842 career points, just three away from third place in school history.
Berry 57, Harding 52: Harding (13-8, 6-3 SoMeck) lost its second conference game, via upset, in as many nights. The Rams have dropped from second to third place in the league, now three games behind league-leading Olympic. Berry (9-9, 3-6) got 18 points each from Maurice Brown and Anjay Cortez.
Hough 73, Lake Norman 71: Hough rallied with a 21-16 push in the fourth quarter. Myles Washington had a career-high 29 points and six rebounds for the Huskies (11-8, 5-4 I-MECK). He made 10-of-15 shots. Teammate Beau Maye had a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds on 9-of-13 shooting. Zane Haglan (20) and Demarcus Johnson (14) led Lake Norman (11-8, 3-6).
West Charlotte 73, Mallard Creek 56: Patrick Williams and Cartier Jernigan had 20 points apiece in an easy win for the Lions (14-6, 7-3 I-MECK). Demetrios Dixon had 16 and Kyle Austin 14 for Mallard Creek (7-12, 3-7).