Prep Insider Blog

Mecklenburg County girls high school basketball previews for 2017-18 season

South Mecklenburg’s girls basketball team, led by (l-4) Naomi Gilbert, Shariah Gaddy, A’lea Gilbert and Jadin Gladden are a favorite to win the SoMeck conference this season
South Mecklenburg’s girls basketball team, led by (l-4) Naomi Gilbert, Shariah Gaddy, A’lea Gilbert and Jadin Gladden are a favorite to win the SoMeck conference this season

Here are high school girls basketball previews for teams in Mecklenburg County. For previews of other counties, please click this link.

ARDREY KELL

Head Coach: Jeff Buseick (4th year as Ardrey Kell coach).

Coaching Career Record: 73-17 at Ardrey Kell.

2016-17 Record: 24-7 (12-2 in the SoMeck8 Conference).

2017-18 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference.

Returning Starters (4): Journey Muhammad, Sr., PG (5-4); Kennedy Cash, Jr., G/F (5-8); Deniyah Lutz, Sr., F/G (5-9); D’Shara Booker, Sr., F (6-1).

Key Newcomers: Meghan Rogers, So., PG (5-5); Michelle Ojo, Fr., G/F (5-11); Evan Miller, So., G/F (5-10).

Outlook: Ardrey Kell has averaged 24 wins per season in the last three years under Coach Buseick. The Knights return four starters from a 4A state quarterfinalist team that should be a state contender with reigning, SoMeck7 conference player of the year, Lutz (15.3 ppg), Booker and Muhammad leading a team that knows how to win the big games.

--JAY EDWARDS

BERRY

Head Coach: Orlando Britton (1st year as Berry basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 19-6 (11-3 in the SoMeck8 Conference).

2017-18 Conference: SoMeck7/4A.

Returning Starters (3): Jordan McLaughlin, Jr., PG (5-7); Maiyra Williams, Jr., F (6-0); Amani Parkins, Sr., F (6-0).

Other Key Returnees: Kendall Terry, So., PG (5-7); Kiarra Grant, Sr., F (5-11). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: The Berry girls have been consistent winners, averaging 20 wins per season over the last eight years. This year, the Cardinals have another strong team led by junior point guard, McLaughlin (16 ppg) and 6-foot, forwards, Williams and Parkins. If senior, Grant, and sophomore, Terry, who both return from injury, can provide some punch, the Cardinals should be right there with Ardrey Kell and South Meck near the top of the SoMeck7 and in good playoff position.

--JAY EDWARDS

BUTLER

Head Coach: Mark Sanders (8th year as Butler basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 140-59.

2016-17 Record: 21-7 (10-2 in the Southwestern 4A (SW4A) Conference.

2017-18 Conference: Southwestern 4A Conference

Returning Starters (3): Destiny Lewis, Sr., PG (5-5); Michaela Dixon, Jr., G/F (5-10); Payton Sutton, So., PG (5-6). Key Newcomers: Nia Nelson, Sr., G/F (5-10).

Outlook: Coach Mark Sanders and his Butler teams are proven winners, averaging 20 victories in his seven-year tenure. This season, a younger Bulldogs’ team will lean on an experienced backcourt in Lewis, Dixon and Sutton, as they grow up during the season. Expect, Butler to again be a SW4A contender and a tough matchup when they get into postseason play.

--JAY EDWARDS

CARMEL CHRISTIAN

Head Coach: Ashley Raley-Ross (2nd Year as Carmel Christian basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 84-23

2016-17 Record: 19-6 (14-0 in Southern Piedmont Athletic Association (SPAA).

2017-18 Conference: SPAA/NCISAA 2A.

Returning Starters (4): Christiana McLean, Jr., PG (5-6); Aja Jones, Jr., F (5-11); Ashlynn Dotson, So., F/G (5-5); Chloe Williams, 8th-grader, F (5-11). Key Newcomers: Lorelei Roper, Sr., F (6-2) (Charlotte Catholic transfer/Marshall University commit); Gianna Jones, So., F (5-10); Sherise Jones, Sr., F (5-11).

Outlook: The Cougars made a huge jump in Coach Ashley Raley-Ross’ first season in charge, advancing to the NCISAA 2A state semifinals. This year, they have greater expectations with four starters, including juniors, Christiana McLean (14 ppg, 7 rpg), Aja Jones back to lead the way. Add in Charlotte Catholic senior transfer, Lorelei Roper (14 ppg, 12 rpg) and Carmel Christian should be a serious NCISAA 2A state contender now.

--JAY EDWARDS

CHARLOTTE CATHOLIC

Head Coach: Bobby Conrad (11th year as Charlotte Catholic basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 195-88.

2016-17 Record: 13-14 (8-6 in the SoMeck8 Conference).

2017-18 Conference: Southern Carolinas’ Conference (SCC)/3A.

Returning Starters (4): Maggie Dupre, Sr., G (5-8); Dane Bertolina, So., G (5-8); Carson Dymock, Sr., G (5-6); Emma Ullius, Sr., F (5-10). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: Charlotte Catholic was up and down last season, but will take on a new challenge in the ultra-competitive, SCC conference. But with four starters back, led by seniors, Dupre, Dymock and Ullius, they should be in the thick of the conference race and a playoff team.

--JAY EDWARDS

CHARLOTTE CHRISTIAN

Head Coach: Bill Smith (1st year as Charlotte Christian basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 45-80.

2016-17 Record: 5-19 (2-8 in the CISAA Conference).

2017-18 Conference: CISAA Conference/NCISAA 3A.

Returning Starters (2): Lindsay Noonan, So., PG (5-6); Kaitlin Walker, Jr., C (5-10).

Other Key Returnees: Caroline Thompson, Sr., PF (5-8). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: The Knights have averaged 20 wins per season for most of the last decade, but fell to just 5-19 last year. With only two starters back in Noonan and Walker, 1st-year coach, Bill Smith, has a daunting task in the unforgiving CISAA conference this season. If Smith and company, can get the Charlotte Christian program moving back in the right direction this season that would be a big accomplishment.

--JAY EDWARDS

CHARLOTTE COUNTRY DAY

Head Coach: Andre Haston (11th year as Charlotte Country Day basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 11-12 (5-5 in the CISAA Conference).

2017-18 Conference: CISAA Conference.

Returning Starters (4): Charlotte Pedlow, Sr., G (5-6); Katie Batten, Jr., C (6-0); Kennedy Grier, So., G (5-3); Molly McLawhorn, Sr., G (5-5). Key Newcomers: Sophie Rucker, Fr., G (5-5); Lindsey Batten, Fr., C (5-11).

Outlook: Charlotte Country Day has made a steady progression from one win in 2013-14 to an 11-12 mark last year, their best season since the 2010-11 campaign. The Bucs hope to continue their climb with four starters back, led by all-conference sophomore guard, Kennedy Grier (12 ppg, 3 spg) and get back over .500 and into the playoffs. But nothing is going to come easy in one of the toughest leagues (CISAA) in the state.

--JAY EDWARDS

CHARLOTTE LATIN

Head Coach: Charisse Mapp (5th year as Charlotte Latin basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 54-49.

2016-17 Record: 12-14 (6-4 in the CISAA).

2017-18 Conference: CISAA.

Returning Starters (4): Claudia Dickey, Sr., PG (5-10); Kathryn Vandiver, Jr., F (6-1); Ruthie Jones, Jr., G/F (6-0); Grace Armstrong, Jr., G/F (5-9). Key Newcomers: Elizabeth Rose, Fr., G (5-10); Forrest Williams, Fr., G (5-9).

Outlook: Charlotte Latin have the talent to compete with the state’s best with four starters back, led by their big three in: Dickey (16 ppg), Jones (11 ppg) and Vandiver (16 ppg). Coach Mapp believes her team can contend for a CISAA title, but says "someone has to prove they can beat (eight-time, defending state state champion) Providence Day," before that happens. Either way, the Hawks have the team to the players to be a contender deep in the state playoffs.

--JAY EDWARDS

CHRIST THE KING

Head Coach: Phil Harrington (1st year as Christ the King basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 12-10 (6-3 in the NCISAA Southern Piedmont/1A).

2017-18 Conference: NCISAA Southern Piedmont/1A.

Returning Starters (1): Sarah Kocher, Jr., PF/SF (5-8). Key Newcomers: Kylie Panizza, Fr., G (5-5); Julia Fishbaugh, Fr., G/F (5-6).

Outlook: Christ the King athletic director, Phil Harrington, looks to help keep the Christ the King girls’ basketball program rolling as they have 47 games in the last three seasons. This year, that task will be much tougher with just one starter in Kocher (7 ppg, 6 rpg) back in the lineup. Putting together another winning record would be a big accomplishment for a young team.

--JAY EDWARDS

COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF DAVIDSON

Head Coach: Brian Delay (1st Year as Community School of Davidson basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 13-13 (8-8 in the South Piedmont 1A Conference).

2017-18 Conference: Piedmont Athletic Conference 7 (PAC 7).

Returning Starters (5): Tori Hancock, Jr., PG (5-9); Aliya Hassen, Sr., SG (5-8); Kendall Miller, Sr., SF (5-7); Grace DiGioia, Sr., PF (5-8); Meredith Suggs, Sr., C (6-1). Key Newcomers: Carley Visser, So., G (5-3); Lauren Whitley, Fr., C (5-11); Sarah Imhoff, Fr., G (5-6).

Outlook: The Spartans return all five starters, led by senior center, Suggs (14 ppg), which should give them a chance to battle for a PAC 7 conference title. But just how fast they can pick up first-year coach, Brian Delay’s new systems will determine how improved they can be for the meat of conference play and into the postseason.

COVENANT DAY

Head Coach: Zach Turner (6th year as Covenant Day coach)

Coaching Career Record: 68-66.

2016-17 Record: 15-11 (7-3 in the CISAA).

2017-18 Conference: CISAA.

Returning Starters (2): Alexis Klohr, Sr., PG (5-4); Madeline Crumpler, Jr., SG (5-5). Key Newcomers: Katherine Ashley, Fr., G/F (5-8).

Outlook: Covenant Day lost seven seniors from a year ago, including all-everything forward, Sarah Billiard. Now, the Lions look to their backcourt in Klohr and Crumpler and promising freshman forward, Ashley, to try and remain in the middle of the pack in the CISAA and in the playoff picture.

--JAY EDWARDS

DAVIDSON DAY

Head Coach: Jeff LaFave (3rd year as Davidson Day basketball coach)

Coaching Career Record: 49-6 at Davidson Day.

2016-17 Record: 23-4.

Returning Starters (2): Ryann Sinclair, Jr., G (5-7); Kate Roberts, Jr., G (5-6). Key Newcomers: Libby Otto, Jr., F (5-8); Jael Hall, Fr., G (5-5); Kennedy Arnold, Fr., G (5-6); Madison Saunders, 8th grader, G (5-6).

Outlook: Davidson Day lost nearly 5,000 points to graduation, including all-state performers in Maya Caldwell and Parker Tompkins. This year, the Patriots will look to reload, leaning on their backcourt in Sinclair and Roberts and look for some younger players to emerge to help them get back to the postseason.

--JAY EDWARDS

EAST MECKLENBURG

Head Coach: Leon White (1st year as East Mecklenburg basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 4-17 (3-9 in the Southwestern 4A Conference (SW4A)).

2017-18 Conference: Southwestern 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (4): Morgan Kelson, So., G/F (5-10); Kasidy Staley, So. PG (5-5); Charm Browne, Jr., F (5-11); Natalya Wilson, So., G (5-7). Key Newcomers: Angel Steveson, So., F (5-7); Nara Scott, Fr., F/C (6-1); Sarah Hall, Jr., F (5-10); Alaine McPherson, So., F (6-1).

Outlook: East Mecklenburg hasn’t won more than seven games in a season since the 2009-10 campaign. This year, the Eagles return four starters led sophomore, Kelson (8 ppg, 9 rpg), which gives them reasons to believe they can improve. But moving up the SW4A conference standings in a league that got tougher with Hickory Ridge will be tough. The Eagles have a young team with a great attitude that should continue to get better for the two seasons and beyond.

--JAY EDWARDS

GARINGER

Head Coach: LaTavia Rorie (2nd year as Garinger basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 5-17.

2016-17 Record: 5-17 (5-7 in the Southwestern 4A Conference (SW4A)).

2017-18 Conference: Southwestern 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (2): Jada Burch, Sr., PG (5-4); ShaMya Alexander, Jr., G/F (5-6). Key Newcomers: Deshai Harris, Jr., F (6-0); JVonna Baker, So., G (5-5); Bianca Carelock, So., G (5-6).

Outlook: The Wildcats won five games last year, which was the most they’ve won in a decade (2006-07 season). But with only two starters back, losing all-conference guard, Jasmine Sanders, Coach Rorie has a tall task in an unforgiving SW4A conference that gets better with the addition of Hickory Ridge. Garinger will likely finish near or at the bottom of the SW4A standings.

--JAY EDWARDS

HARDING

Head Coach: Eddie Sanders (1st year as Harding basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 15-10 (9-5 in the SoMeck8 Conference).

2017-18 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference/4A.

Returning Starters (1): Trinity Russell, Sr., F (5-8). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: The Rams nearly doubled their win total last year winning 15 games (won 8 games in 2015-16). But this year, they return only one starter, which won’t make it easy on 1st-year coach, Eddie Sanders. Harding will likely finish near or at the bottom of league standings in the often, unforgiving SoMeck7 conference.

--JAY EDWARDS

HICKORY GROVE

Head Coach: Nate Bearden (2nd year as Hickory Grove basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 22-6.

2016-17 Record: 22-6 (8-2 in the Metrolina Athletic Conference (MAC)).

2017-18 Conference: Metrolina Athletic Conference/NCISAA 3A.

Returning Starters (2): Imani Cherry, Jr., SF; Lucy Jennings, Jr., PF. Key Newcomers: Ellie Johnson, Sr., G; Kayla Ganda, Fr., PG.

Outlook: The Lions won 22 games last, advancing to the NCISAA 3A state quarterfinals. This season, they look to stay in the MAC race with juniors in Cherry and Jennings, leading a squad that looks to also be a factor in the postseason again, too.

--JAY EDWARDS

HOPEWELL

Head Coach: Scott Parkin (1st year as Hopewell basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 24-51

2016-17 Record: 18-8 (8-4 in the MECKA 4A Conference).

2017-18 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (0): None. Key Newcomers: Aniya Finger, So., G (5-10); Cheyenne McManus, So., G (5-4).

Outlook: 1st-year Hopewell coach, Scott Parkin’s task won’t be easy without any starters back in the unforgiving, I-Meck 4A conference. The Titans, who graduated seven seniors (three, Division I players) will need the sophomore guards, Finger and McManus to emerge and help lead this young team into the future.

--JAY EDWARDS

HOUGH

Head Coach: Jason Buzzard (2nd year as Hough basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 23-6, 9-3 in the MECKA 4A Conference.

2017-18 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (2): Hailey Gipson, Sr., G (5-5); Renee Alquiza, Sr., F (6-1). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: Hough has a one-two punch back in seniors Alquiza (15 ppg, 9 rpg) and Gipson (8 ppg, 5 rpg, Winston-Salem State commit) that few teams possess. But Coach Jason Buzzard and the Huskies will need some solid role players to emerge if they are going to stay in contention in the I-Meck 4A and be in position for another deep playoff run (3rd round last year).

--JAY EDWARDS

INDEPENDENCE

Head Coach: Lauren Galvani (3rd year as Independence basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 9-15 (4-8 in the Southwestern 4A (SW4A)).

2017-18 Conference: Southwestern 4A.

Returning Starters (1): Sharonda Smith, Jr., SG. Key Newcomers: Braylyn Milton, Fr., PG/SG (5-10).

Outlook: Coach Lauren Galvani led her 2016-17 team to their most wins since 2012, but with only one starter back it will be tough to carry that momentum into this season. But Independence with look to their backcourt in Smith and Milton to help the Patriots’ program take another step in the right direction.

--JAY EDWARDS

LAKE NORMAN CHARTER

Head Coach: Bobby Williams (11th year as Lake Norman Charter basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 163-78.

2016-17 Record: 10-16 (5-9 in the Big South Conference).

2017-18 Conference: South Fork 2A Conference.

Returning Starters (3): Kezia Johnson, Sr., F (5-9); Alex Behnke, Sr., F (5-9); Vanessa Bissinger, Sr., SF (5-5). Key Newcomers: Delaney Pierce, Jr., F (5-8).

Outlook: Lake Norman Charter struggled in the Big South 3A conference, but will get new life in the South Fork 2A conference this season. Coach Bobby Williams has an experienced team, led by the senior trio by Johnson (7 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Behnke (5.5 ppg) and Bissinger (5 ppg, 5 rpg) to help be a factor in the league race and into the postseason.

--JAY EDWARDS

MALLARD CREEK

Head Coach: Clarence (C.J.) Johnson (9th year as Mallard Creek coach).

Coaching Career Record: 173-48.

2016-17 Record: 29-1 (12-0 in the MECKA 4A conference).

2017-18 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (4): Ahlana Smith, Sr., G (5-9) (UCLA commit); Dazia Lawrence, Jr., G (5-9); Emya Price, Sr., G; Janay Sanders, Sr., G (5-10) (LaSalle University commit). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: Mallard Creek’s perfect 29-0 season came to a screeching halt in a 59-58 heartbreaking loss to Northwest Guilford in the 4A state semifinals. That gives the Mavericks plenty of motivation with four starters back, including a loaded backcourt in Lawrence (17 ppg), Sanders (9 ppg), Smith (14 ppg). Mallard Creek wants nothing less than the chance to play for 4A state championship this season.

--JAY EDWARDS

MYERS PARK

Head Coach: Barbara Nelson (6th as Myers Park basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 682-248.

2016-17 Record: 16-11 (10-2 in Southwestern 4A) (SW4A)).

2017-18 Conference: Southwestern 4A.

Returning Starters (1): Claire Proctor, Sr., F/C (6-1).

Other Key Returnees: Mimi Schrinsher, Sr., G/F (5-7). Key Newcomers: Naya Clamp, Fr., G (5-7); Taylor Henderson, Fr., G (5-9); Michaela Funderburk, So., G (5-7).

Outlook: The Myers Park girls’ basketball team is annually one of the best programs in the state. But this year keep their winning tradition going won’t be easy with only one starter back in senior, Proctor (4 ppg, 4 rpg). However, Coach Barbara Nelson is a proven winner and no one will be surprised if she helps younger standouts emerge, helping Myers Park challenge for a SW4A title. The Mustangs will likely look like a different team in the postseason, where they should be a dangerous playoff matchup.

--JAY EDWARDS

NORTH MECKLENBURG

Head Coach: Jennifer Baker (9th year as North Mecklenburg basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 133-82.

2016-17 Record: 17-10 (7-5 in the MECKA 4A Conference).

2017-18 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (3): Nazhiyah Hayes, Sr., G/F (5-9); Courtney Lewis, Sr., G (5-7); Ayanna Taylor, Sr., C (6-3). Key Newcomers: Jessica Timmons, Fr., G (5-8).

Outlook: North Mecklenburg has consistently been a factor in the conference race, and with six seniors and 11 players back on the varsity team, the Vikings have the experience to have another good season. With the senior trio of Hayes, Lewis and Taylor and promising freshman, Timmons (already has N.C. State offer), North Meck will look to challenge Mallard Creek for league supremacy and get a strong playoff seed.

--JAY EDWARDS

NORTHSIDE CHRISTIAN

Head Coach: Aysha Pride (1st year as Northside Christian basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 13-6 (7-2 in the Metrolina Atheltic Conference (MAC)).

2017-18 Conference: Metrolina Athletic Conference/NCISAA 3A.

Returning Starters (1): Akiya Phillips, So., PF (5-10). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: 1st-year, Northside Christian coach, Aysha Pride, has a major challenge this season with an extremely young team, as her most is experience player is sophomore, Akiya Phillips. The Knights will look to a group of 8th graders, freshman and sophomore to grow up quickly in the brutal MAC to try to stay in the league race and playoff contention.

--JAY EDWARDS

OLYMPIC

Head Coach: Michael Shutt (2nd year as Olympic basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 4-15 (1-13 in the SoMeck8 Conference).

2017-18 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference.

Returning Starters (3): Jayla LeFlore, Sr., G (5-7); Moriah Terry, Jr., G (5-7); Julesia Badio, Jr., F/C (5-9). Key Newcomers: Emily Barr, So., G/F (5-8).

Outlook: Olympic has won just nine games in the last three seasons, including a 4-15 campaign a year ago. This year, with three starters back led by senior guard, Jayla LeFlore, the Trojans hope to move into the middle of the pack in the league race and contend for a playoff berth.

--JAY EDWARDS

PROVIDENCE

Head Coach: Jennifer Bean (2nd year as Providence basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 5-20 (2-12 in the SoMeck8 Conference).

2017-18 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference.

Returning Starters (4): Jaylynn Askew, Jr., F (5-8); Lili Bowen, Jr., G/F (5-7); Sarah Knafelz, So., C (6-1); Audrey Lytle, So., PG (5-4). Key Newcomers: Nyla McGill, Fr., PG (5-6); Paulina Armendariz, Sr. (Returning from injury).

Outlook: Providence has taken their lumps in the last two years with just seven wins combined. But the Panthers’ young talent has gained valuable experience and are ready to vault up the SoMeck7 standings and back into the playoff picture with juniors, Askew and Bowen, leading the way.

--JAY EDWARDS

PROVIDENCE DAY

Head Coach: Josh Springer (11th year as Providence Day basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 264-39.

2016-17 Record: 25-4 (10-0 in the CISAA).

2017-18 Conference: CISAA.

Returning Starters (3): Kennedy Boyd, Sr., PG (5-7); Andi Levitz, So., PG/SG (5-4); MiLeia Owens, So., PG/SG (5-5).

Other Key Returning Players: Kailey Smith, So., G (5-6); Grace Godwin, So., G (5-6). Key Newcomers: Nina Clark, So., PG/SG (5-6).

Outlook: Providence Day’s standard for success is nearly impossible as the eight-time defending, NCISAA 3A state champions (also won 12 of the last 13 state titles) pursue No. 9.

The Chargers have a talented backcourt in University of North Carolina commit, all-state point guard, Boyd, Levitz, and Owens, but will need some frontcourt players to emerge. Providence Day might not be as loaded as usual, but no one will be surprised if Coach Josh Springer’s team is hanging another conference and state championship banner after this season.

--JAY EDWARDS

QUEENS GRANT

Head Coach: Kevin King (1st year as Queens Grant basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 0-16 (0-10 in the Uwharrie Athletic Conference/1A).

2017-18 Conference: Piedmont Athletic Conference 7 (PAC 7)/1A.

Returning Starters (5): Ashleigh Aberly, So., F (6-1); Emeli Carrasco, Jr., G/F (5-6); Jewell Williams, Jr., C (6-2); Faoz Francis, Jr., G/F (5-4); Trinity Sutton, Jr., G/F (5-4).

Other Key Returnees: Claudia Robinson, Jr., F( 5-7). Key Newcomers: Sheona Woodham, Jr., G (5-7) (Piedmont transfer); Abby Tores, So., G (5-1); Nayla Williams, Jr., F (5-9); Mikaylah Pratt, Fr., F (5-8).

Outlook: Queens Grant was winless last season at 0-16, but does return all six key players and adds Piedmont transfer, Sheona Woodham, which should get them back in the win column. The Stallions also hope to be more competitive in the new, PAC 7, 1A conference, but will have to patient with the overall results in a tough league.

--JAY EDWARDS

ROCKY RIVER

Head Coach: Shatorie Jones (1st year as Rocky River basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 21-8 (10-2 in the Southwestern 4A Conference).

2017-18 Conference: Southwestern 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (1): Andre’Sia Alexander, Jr., G (5-2). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: Rocky River enjoyed one of the best seasons in school history last year with 21 wins, a Southwestern 4A conference title, advancing to the 3rd round of the (4A) playoffs. But 1st-year coach, Shatorie Jones, has a tough task in reloading with only one starter back in junior point guard, Alexander (10 ppg). For the Ravens to stay in the SW4A race and earn a solid playoff seed, they will need some of their younger players to grow up quickly this season.

--JAY EDWARDS

SOUTH MECKLENBURG

Head Coach: Cristie Mitchell (7th year as South Mecklenburg coach).

2016-17 Record: 18-10 (10-4 in SoMeck8 Conference).

2017-18 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference.

Returning Starters (4): A’Lea Gilbert, Sr., F (6-0); Shariah Gaddy, Jr., G/F (5-11); Naomi Gilbert, Sr., PG (5-4); Jadin Gladden, Sr., G/F (5-10). Key Newcomers: Mya Olmeda, Fr., G (5-3); Aniyah Blair-Young, Jr., F (5-8).

Outlook: The Sabres return four starters and nine varsity players from 18-win team. With Appalachian State commit, A’Lea Gilbert (13.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg), leading a veteran team, South Mecklenburg has the experience and talent to challenge Ardrey Kell in the SoMeck7 conference and be a dangerous playoff matchup.

--JAY EDWARDS

SUGAR CREEK CHARTER

Head Coach: Lathan Black (4th year as Sugar Creek girls’ basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 17-9 (Lost in Charlotte Area Athletic Association for Schools of Choice (CAASC) state runner-up).

2017-18 Conference: Queen City Athletic Conference (CAASC)

Returning Starters (5): Rain Redfern, So., G (5-4); Rogerlyne Slawon, Jr., G; Makila Ballard, Sr., G (5-6); Shamicah Sturdivant, Sr., G (5-9); Shanyia Verene, Sr., C (6-2). Key Newcomers: Jada Cruz, Fr., G (5-3).

Outlook: The Wildcats return all five starters from a team that won 17 games and advanced to the CAASC championship game in its first year as a varsity program. This season, with senior, college basketball prospects, Sturdivant (20 ppg) and Verene (5 ppg, 7 rpg) back to lead the way, Sugar Creek Charter looks to finish their season with a championship.

--JAY EDWARDS

UNITED FAITH

Head Coach: Tony Busby (1st year as United Faith basketball coach)

2016-17 Record: 1st-year team/program

2017-18 Conference: NCISAA Southern Piedmont/2A.

Returning Starters: None. Key Newcomers: Breya Busby, Fr., PG (5-5); Ryan Swilling, 8th grade, G (5-7); Kennedy Robinson, Fr., F (5-8).

Outlook: Coach Tony Busby and his team have a major challenge in front of them as a first-year program. But the Falcons have plenty of talent in freshman point guard, Breya Busby (already has offers from Charleston Southern and Stetson), Robinson and Swilling, as the building blocks to help get the United Faith girls’ basketball program going in the right direction.

--JAY EDWARDS

VANCE

Head Coach: Donnell Rhyne (2nd year as Vance basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 7-18 (1-11 in the MECKA 4A Conference).

2017-18 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (3): Kyanna Morgan, So., G (6-0); Tori Reid, Jr., F (5-10); Imani Boyd, So., G/F (5-9). Key Newcomers: Tanajah Hayes, Fr., PG (5-6); Amhyia Moreland, Fr., F (6-1); M’Kayla Marshall, Fr., G (5-4).

Outlook: Vance coach Donnell Rhyne is changing the culture in a Cougar program that has gone 86-277 in the last decade. The Cougars positive attitude begins with their season theme, "We Believe." But they also have some substance to back that up with three starters back led by Morgan as well as promising freshman prospects in Hayes and Moreland, who will have an immediate impact. Rhyne and company believe they can finish in the upper half of the I-Meck 4A standings and get back into the playoffs, where they would be a dangerous matchup with their young talent.

--JAY EDWARDS

VICTORY CHRISTIAN

Head Coach: Iesha Marie Gray (1st year as Victory Christian basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 2-18 (1-7 in NCISAA Southern Piedmont Athletic Association (SPAA)).

2017-18 Conference: NCISAA Southern Piedmont Athletic Association/1A.

Returning Starters (4): Assiyah Mitchell, So., G (5-9); Jurnee Coleman, So., G (5-8); Kristen Jackson, Fr., G (5-8); Anita Seye, Sr., F (5-10). Key Newcomers: Inshan’ane Smith, Jr., G/F (5-9) (from Bermuda); Varvaras Papakonstantinou, Jr., G/F (5-8) (from Greece).

Outlook: After winning 32 games combined in the previous two seasons, the Kings hit hard times last year going 2-18. But with four starters back in the lineup and more depth, 1st-year coach Iesha Gray will help get her team going back in the right direction in the win column.

--JAY EDWARDS

WEST CHARLOTTE

Head Coach: Reggie Mobley (10th year as West Charlotte basketball coach).

Coaching Career Record: 130-128.

2016-17 Record: 9-15 (3-9 in the MECKA 4A Conference).

2017-18 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference.

Returning Starters (5): Tykema Nesbit, Sr., F (6-0); Kamiah Moore, So., G/F (5-9); D’Nya Hamilton, Jr., G (5-6); Damolia China, So., G (5-3); Mary Morrissette, Sr., G/F (5-9).

Other Key Returnees: Jeremeya Mercer, Jr., F (5-9); Qyataisha Champy, Jr., G/F (5-9); Chavante Alexander, Sr., G/F (5-6). Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: West Charlotte was a state power Mobley started coaching the Lions (2009 state champion), but has struggled in recent years with only two winning seasons in their the last seven campaigns. However, this year, Mobley returns all five starters led by senior, Nesbit (13 ppg), who has the talent to help West Charlotte have a winning season and get back into the playoffs.

--JAY EDWARDS

WEST MECKLENBURG

Head Coach: Erika Stokes (2nd year as West Mecklenburg basketball coach).

2016-17 Record: 7-18 (3-11 in the SoMeck8 Conference).

2017-18 Conference: South Meck 7 Conference/4A.

Returning Starters (1): Alize Brooks, Jr., PG/G (5-4). Key Newcomers: Nyasia McMillan, Fr., G (5-5); Raquel McNeill, So., G (5-6).

Outlook: The Hawks have struggled in recent history without a winning season since the 2012-13 campaign, including 7-18 last year. With only one starter back in junior, point guard, Brooks (11 ppg), it will be a daunting task to make a move in the ultra-competitive, SoMeck7 standings into postseason contention.

--JAY EDWARDS

**Still haven’t received Mecklenburg County capsule information from Grace Academy, and SouthLake Christian.

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