High School Sports

Previewing Saturday’s high school basketball regional championships

The versatility of North Mecklenburg's Jaylen McManus (24) could make him a matchup nightmare for Charlotte Catholic, the Vikings’ opponent Saturday in the N.C. 4A boys’ regional championship game in Winston-Salem.
The versatility of North Mecklenburg's Jaylen McManus (24) could make him a matchup nightmare for Charlotte Catholic, the Vikings’ opponent Saturday in the N.C. 4A boys’ regional championship game in Winston-Salem. WWW.MICZEKPHOTO.COM

Elevator

Mecklenburg County boys’ basketball: With two county teams (North Mecklenburg, Charlotte Catholic) meeting in the regional championship Saturday, this will be the 10th time in the past 13 years that a local team has reached the N.C. 4A state finals.

Rechon Black, Devon Dotson, Jairus Hamilton: All three N.C. kids ranked in Rivals Top 75 national rankings for 2018. Black, a UNC commitment from Concord High, is No. 13; Dotson, from Providence Day, is No. 51; Hamilton, from Cannon, is No. 54.

Molly Mann, Weddington: Warriors star signed with Washington & Lee. She helped Weddington to three straight regional tournament appearances.

Charlotte Catholic’s “Frat Boyz”: Devoid of big-name stars or very big players, the Cougars have given themselves a nickname that pokes fun at what they look like entering the gym. Their 30-1 record, though, says looks can be deceiving.

Saturday’s regional championship previews

4A: North Mecklenburg (27-2) vs. Charlotte Catholic (30-1), noon, Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem: Catholic has never reached the state final and North Meck is trying to return for the fourth time in school history and the first time since 2006. Both teams are led by seniors, though Catholic’s 6-7 center, B.J. Mack, is a freshman having a big year.

2A: East Lincoln (27-0) vs. Forest Hills (28-2), noon, UNC Greensboro: East Lincoln has won 51 of its past 52 games. The loss was to Kinston in last year’s N.C. 2A state final. East Lincoln yearns to return to the title game and win its first state championship. Forest Hills hasn’t been to the state finals since losing in 1964.

3A: Hickory (29-2) vs. Concord Robinson (27-3), 6 p.m., Joel Coliseum: Coach Andy Poplin, who once led Concord to a state title, has Hickory on the verge of the school’s fourth state finals appearance. Hickory has tied a school record for wins. Led by top 100 national recruit Lavar Batts Jr., Robinson seeks its first state finals appearance.

1A: Lincoln Charter (29-3) vs. Winston-Salem Prep (21-7), 4 p.m., Joel Coliseum: Winston-Salem Prep is in the regional final for the sixth straight season and looks to reach a fifth consecutive state final. Lincoln Charter is in the regional final for the first time, on a team filled with underclassmen.

3A Girls: Freedom (30-0) vs. Ashbrook (30-1), 4 p.m., UNC Greensboro: Ashbrook will try to earn its first state championship berth. To get there, it must unseat one of the state’s perennial powers. Freedom has won four state championships and made six appearances, the last in 2002.

Three to watch

Jaylen McManus, North Mecklenburg: The Vikings’ 6-foot-7 unsigned senior is piling up college offers because of his relentless play and versatility. He can play inside at center or move outside at small forward. He’ll be a matchup nightmare for Charlotte Catholic.

Chazz Surratt, East Lincoln: After a season-ending elbow injury, Surratt thought about enrolling at UNC early to practice spring football and get a head start academically. But after consulting with doctors, he decided to return to high school -- mainly to win a state title. He’s two wins away.

Josh Brodowicz, Charlotte Catholic: Senior guard has had an MVP year leading Catholic to the best season in school history. Brodowicz, who is 5-9, has played his best in big games.

Keep an eye on this ...

▪ Speed of the 4A West final: North Meck averages 81 points and has scored 90 or more six times. The Vikings have topped 100 three times. Catholic averages 67 points and has a season-high of 90. The Cougars can’t avoid to get into a running game with North Meck.

▪ North Meck size: Charlotte Catholic 6-7 freshman center B.J. Mack has often faced double-teams in the playoffs as the Cougars often faced teams without a true pivot man. North Meck, however, can use McManus or 6-5 Ethan Wacker against Mack. But if Mack can continue demanding extra attention, it opens up Catholic’s offense and allows the Cougars to play at the deliberate pace they thrive in.

▪ Robinson’s other stars: Batts, the No.-1 ranked N.C. recruit in the class of 2017, gets most of the notoriety, but he has lots of help. Jordan McKenzie and Daniel Spencer combined for 43 points in this week’s regional semifinals. If they come up big again Saturday, Robinson will have a great shot at its first state finals appearance.

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