High School Sports

Mecklenburg County public school girls basketball preview 2018-19

Mallard Creek’s Dazia Lawrence (10) is a Charlotte 49ers commit and one of the area’s top returning players
Mallard Creek’s Dazia Lawrence (10) is a Charlotte 49ers commit and one of the area’s top returning players Special to the Observer

Teams to Watch

Vance: The Cougars made a major jump last year going 21-7 overall, advancing to the third round of the 4A state playoffs with a roster made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores. This year, Vance looks to major another big jump, and with four starters back, led by sophomores Tanajah Hayes (17 ppg, 5 spg) and Amahya Moreland (11 ppg, 5 rpg) and junior Keyonna Morgan, coach Donnell Rhyne says the Cougars’ goals include: “winning the conference, winning the state and becoming nationally ranked.”

Mallard Creek: The Mavericks are 81-6 in the last three seasons with back-to-back trips to the 4A state semifinals in the last two years. This year will be a new challenge with seniors in all-state point guard Dazia Lawrence (17 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg) and forward Sydney Hunter (7 ppg, 9 rpg) back to lead a younger team. While their roster is different, the champions goals (I-Meck, 4A state) remain the same for a team will be tough to beat in February and March with their experience and leadership.

South Mecklenburg: The Sabres have established themselves as a state power winning 60 games in the last three years, including a 25-5 mark last season. This year, coach Cristie Mitchell will look to all-conference senior, Shariah Gaddy (12 ppg, 7 rpg) to lead a younger team that has the talent to contend for the SoMeck7 title and be a factor deep into the 4A state playoffs, again.

Ardrey Kell: The Knights have averaged 25 wins per season over the last four years. This year, coach Jeff Buseick has another veteran team with a standout backcourt trio returning in sophomore guard Michelle Ojo (10 ppg, 7 rpg as a freshman), junior Meghan Rogers and senior Kennedy Cash leading the way. Ardrey Kell has all the pieces to be in the hunt for a SoMeck7 conference crown and much more into the 4A state playoffs.

North Mecklenburg: The Vikings have been up and down in the past four years, like their 14-12 mark from a year ago. This year, North Mecklenburg returns one of the best scorers in the state in 5-foot-8 sophomore guard Jessica Timmons (25.5 ppg). Coach Jennifer Baker and company will look to Timmons to help them finish in the upper half of a brutal I-Meck 4A conference and be a dangerous team to play in an one-and-done, playoff-game scenario.

Butler: The Bulldogs return four starters from a team that won 18 games a year ago. Butler will will need 6-foot-1 junior forward Michaela Lane (13 ppg, 10 rpg) and senior guard Renee Kennedy (9 ppg) to play lead roles for the Bulldogs to be serious Southwestern 4A (SW4A) conference contenders and a dangerous playoff team with their versatility.

Myers Park: The Mustangs have averaged 24 wins per season in coach Barbara Nelson’s six years in at the the helm. While this Myers Park team is younger, they will look to sophomore point guard Taylor Henderson (12 ppg, 5 rpg as a freshman) and senior sharpshooter Andrew Shire to find a way to factor in the SW4A conference race and into the playoffs.

Berry: The Cardinals have quietly averaged 20 wins per season over the past three years. This season, senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin (19 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, 4 spg) returns to power a team that has proven it can hang in one of toughest leagues in the state.

Providence: The Panthers had their best season in more than a decade, going 15-12 overall, advancing to the 2nd round of the 4A state playoffs. This year, with all five starters back led by senior, Jaylynn Askew (8 ppg, 9 rpg) and junior, Nyla McGill (10 ppg, 6 rpg), Providence is confident they can contend in the SoMeck7 conference and be a tough matchup in the playoffs with their combination of talent and experience.

Charlotte Catholic: The Cougars have been consistent winners under Coach Bobby Conrad. Charlotte Catholic will need to the backcourt of junior Dane Bertolina (11 ppg, 3 rpg) and senior Clara Flatau to step into bigger roles if they are going to contend in the SCC and be factor in the 3A state playoffs.

Players to Watch

Jessica Timmons, North Mecklenburg sophomore: The Vikings’ standout guard had a freshman year for the ages, averaging 25.5 points per game, and she led the I-Meck and class 4A (state) in scoring (663 points). This year, Timmons, who has multiple ACC and SEC offers already, hopes to transform her playmaking ability into more wins for a North Mecklenburg team that has firepower to hang in the unforgiving, I-Meck 4A.

Dazia Lawrence, Mallard Creek senior: The Charlotte 49ers’ commit can do it all on both sides of the court (17 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg, 3 spg). This year, Mallard Creek will be “her team,” as the Mavericks look to repeat as I-Meck 4A champions and battle for the elusive, 4A state championship (4A state semifinalists the last two years).

Jordan McLaughlin, Berry senior: The Cardinals’ senior and Mercer University commit has proven she can be one of the top playmakers in the county averaging 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals per game last year. This season, McLaughlin hopes her play can help Berry be a serious, SoMeck7 conference contender and a factor deep into the 4A state playoffs.

Tanajah Hayes, Vance sophomore: The Cougars’ standout proved she could play in one of the toughest leagues in the state, averaging 17 points, four assists and five steals per game as a freshman in the I-MECK 4A. Now, Hayes and company have bigger and better goals as they look contend for the I-Meck 4A conference title and be a serious 4A state contender with a team that has plenty of talent, but is still 80 percent freshmen and sophomores.

Shariah Gaddy, South Mecklenburg senior: The Sabres’ most valuable player from a 25-win team a year ago is back for her senior season. Gaddy will be counted to do a lot for a younger team that still has the talent to be amongst the SoMeck7 conference and state’s best deep into the postseason (third round last year).

Michelle Ojo, Ardrey Kell sophomore: The Knights’ standout didn’t waste any time proving herself, averaging 10 points and seven rebounds for a 25-win team as a freshman. This year, Ojo is already earned herself a lead role for a veteran team (nine players back on varsity) that expects to contend for league and state titles every season.

Aniya Finger, Hopewell junior: The Titans’ 6-foot junior guard had a breakout season, averaging 17 points, seven rebounds, and four steals per game as a sophomore. Now, Finger and classmate Nawaza Chambers look to keep Hopewell in the upper half of the I-Meck 4A race and in strong playoff position.

Andresia Alexander, Rocky River senior: The lightning-quick 5-foot-2 guard can fill up the stat sheet in the blink of eye as she averaged 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals per game last year. This year, Alexander looks to team with junior Mashya Scott (14 ppg) to move the Ravens back up the SW4A standings, while earning a strong playoff seed.

Taylor Henderson, Myers Park sophomore: The 5-foot-10 sophomore point guard showed she can play with the big girls as a freshman, averaging 12 points and five rebounds per game for 19-win team. This year, Henderson looks to help Myers Park get back on top of the SW4A conference and more into the postseason.

Trinity Thompson, Harding junior: The Rams’ junior guard can light up scoreboards in a hurry (19.9 ppg as a sophomore) and hopes her play can help Harding get more wins this season.

Can’t Miss Games

South Mecklenburg vs. Mallard Creek in Charlotte Hoops Challenge at Berry Academy, Friday, Nov. 23: Two of Mecklenburg county’s top two teams square off in an early season matchup at the Charlotte Hoops’ Challenge in what should be a full gym at Berry.

Vance vs. Davidson Day in Charlotte Hoops Challenge at Berry Academy, Saturday, Nov. 24: Vance opens its season in a public vs. private gem that we rarely get to see, matching two of the top teams in the state in their respective classifications.

Ardrey Kell at Myers Park, Friday, Nov. 30: A strong non-conference test for both teams on the final day of November in what will also be an entertaining double-header with Myers Park-Ardrey boys’ game to follow.

South Mecklenburg at Vance, Tuesday, December 4: Another great non-conference battle pitting two of the area’s top teams in early December in a game will help set the tone for both teams heading in league play the following week.

Mallard Creek at Vance, Friday, December 14: If Vance is going to dethrone Mallard Creek for the I-Meck 4A conference title, they will have to hold serve at home. The rematch is at Mallard Creek, Jan. 25.

Charlotte Catholic at Cuthbertson, Friday, Jan. 25: If Charlotte Catholic wants to challenge for an SCC regular season championship they will likely have to beat Cuthbertson in this late January meeting.

Ardrey Kell at South Mecklenburg, Friday, Feb. 1: The SoMeck7 regular season conference title could come down to this matchup the first day of February. South Mecklenburg travels to Ardrey Kell, Jan. 4.

North Mecklenburg at Hopewell, Friday, Feb. 1: One of the state’s best rivalries is usually played in front of a capacity crowd with I-Meck 4A conference standing and playoff implications on the line.

Butler at Independence, Tuesday, Feb. 5: Always a lot at stake when these arch rivals play with SW4A conference standing and playoff-seeding implications, not to mention neighborhood bragging rights.

Hickory Ridge at Butler, Friday Feb. 8: This matchup could decide the Southwestern 4A conference regular season champion with just one week to play. Butler travels to Hickory Ridge, Jan. 11.

Interesting Notes

  • South Mecklenburg freshman guard Senali Moss, NFL Hall of Famer Randy Moss’ daughter, should have an immediate impact “as a starter,” for South Meck, according to coach Cristie Mitchell.

  • Myers Park basketball coach Barbara Nelson has 684 career wins as a high school and college coach, and could get to No. 700 this season. Nelson is 145-22 in six years as the head coach at Myers Park.

  • Bradford Prep had only seven girls on their varsity roster last year. This year, those numbers are up as the Bears inherit several players from their undefeated middle school, including 6-foot, twin sisters Haley and Megan Seymour, who should have an immediate impact, according to first-year coach Christopher Bandy (former Berry assistant).

  • Sugar Creek Charter has quietly won 36 games in their first two years as a varsity program. This year, they look to have a third straight winning season as they “are seeking to join a conference,” according to Sugar Creek girls’ basketball coach Lathan Black.

  • First-year head coach Kevin King and his Queens Grant team struggled last season going 3-14 overall, including 1-11 in the PAC 7 conference. But with four starters back, led by 6-foot-2 senior forward Jewell Williams (8 ppg, 12 rpg) and 6-foot-1 junior forward Ashleigh Aberly (10 ppg, 10 rpg), the Stallions should be much improved this year.

--JAY EDWARDS

Conference Predictions

I-Meck 4A Girls

  1. Vance; 2. Mallard Creek; 3. North Mecklenburg; 4. Hopewell; 5. Hough; 6. Lake Norman; 7. Mooresville; 8. West Charlotte.

Piedmont Athletic Conference 8 (PAC 8) Girls

  1. Union Academy; 2. Community School of Davidson; 3. Pine Lake Prep; 4. Mountain Island Charter; 5. Langtree Charter; 6. Carolina International; 7. Queens Grant; 8. Bradford Prep.

Southern Carolinas Conference (SCC) Girls

  1. Cuthbertson; 2. Charlotte Catholic; 3. Marvin Ridge; 4. Parkwood; 5. Monroe; 6. Weddington; 7. Piedmont; 8. Sun Valley.

South Fork 2A Girls

  1. Newton Conover; 2. Maiden; 3. Lincolnton; 4. East Lincoln; 5. Lake Norman Charter; 6. Bandys; 7. North Lincoln; 8. West Lincoln.

SoMeck7 Girls

  1. South Mecklenburg; 2. Ardrey Kell; 3. Berry; 4. Providence; 5. Olympic; 6. Harding; 7. West Mecklenburg.

Southwestern 4A Conference (SW4A) Girls

  1. Hickory Ridge; 2. Butler; 3. Myers Park; 4. Independence; 5. Rocky River; 6. Porter Ridge; 7. East Mecklenburg; 8. Garinger.

--JAY EDWARDS

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