Teams to Watch
Hickory Ridge: The Ragin’ Bulls are 81-8 in the last three seasons, including a 26-2 record a year ago when they won the Southwestern 4A (SW4A) conference title and advanced to the third round of the 4A state playoffs. With senior guard Nia Daniels (15 ppg) back to lead the way, Hickory Ridge has a good chance to repeat as league championships and be a dangerous playoff team with their experience and talent.
Concord First Assembly: Coach Bill Middlebrooks and the Concord First Assembly girls’ basketball team have quietly won 96 games in the last four years, going 24-7 on their way to NCISAA 2A state semifinal run a year ago. This year, despite only have one starter back in junior Bailey Stinson (6 ppg), the Eagles will reload quickly with Jay M. Robinson transfer and all-state guard Jada McMillan (19 ppg). This is a team that should contend for the Metrolina Athletic conference (MAC) and state championships again this year.
Central Cabarrus: The Vikings have won 42 games in the last two years, including a share of the South Piedmont conference (SPC) title last year. This season, juniors Ja-el Miller (7 ppg) and Aniyah Tate (11 ppg) look to lead Central Cabarrus back to the top of the league standings and deep into the postseason after a 1st-round playoff loss ended their season abruptly last year.
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Northwest Cabarrus: The Trojans won only five games combined from the 2014 to 2017. Last year, the more than doubled their win total going 11-14 overall. This season, Northwest Cabarrus expects to make another big jump with four starters back, led by senior Braedon Allen (12 ppg) and sophomore Aliciah Fields (11 ppg).
Cannon School: The Cougars are 11-50 in the last three years in the ultra-competitive CISAA conference. But this season, Cannon School has four starters back plus Hickory Ridge transfer Reigan Richardson, one of top players in the country in her class (2021) with multiple, Division I offers. Richardson, senior Caroline Livingston (10 ppg) and sophomore Sydney Wood (10 ppg) should give the Cougars a chance to battle for a spot in the top half of the CISAA and a chance to get to the NCISAA 4A state playoffs.
Players to Watch
Nia Daniel, Hickory Ridge senior: University of North Carolina commit and reigning SW4A player of the year (15 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 spg) is back to lead a Hickory Ridge team with championship expectations.
Reigan Richardson, Cannon School sophomore: Hickory Ridge transfer (11 ppg as a freshman) is already one of top players in the country in her class (2021) with offers from Auburn, Charlotte, Georgia, Georgetown, North Carolina and N.C. State. Now, Richardson will have to play a lead role for this Cannon School team to compete in the CISAA conference.
Jada McMillan, Concord First Assembly senior: The Jay M. Robinson transfer, and all-state guard (19 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg, 2 spg) will be an immediate go-player for a Concord First Assembly with state championships expectations.
Aniyah Tate/Jael Miller, Central Cabarrus juniors (both): The Vikings’ duo gives Central Cabarrus a strong inside-outside duo with Miller (7 ppg, 3 apg) at point guard and Tate (11 ppg, 10 rpg) inside for a team looking to repeat at SPC champions and make a playoff run.
Braedon Allen (Sr.)/Aliciah Fields (So.), Northwest Cabarrus: The Trojans also have an all-SPC duo in Allen (12 ppg, 5 rpg) at shooting guard and Fields (11 ppg, 9 rpg) in the post that hopes to help Northwest Cabarrus contend in the SPC.
Jakiah Misenheimer, Jay M. Robinson senior: The lone returning Bulldogs’ starter (12 ppg) will have to be a leader for what is now a young, Robinson team.
Janazi Chambers, Concord senior: Spiders’ center is a double-double machine (11 ppg, 10 rpg) and gives Concord a strong one-two punch, up front with junior forward, Akeya Wallace (13 ppg, 6 rpg).
Can’t Miss Games
Hickory Ridge at Mallard Creek, Monday, Nov. 19: 4A state powers collide in the season opener for both teams that have combined to go 162-14 in the last three years.
Myers Park at Northwest Cabarrus, Thursday, Dec. 13: The Trojans get a rare opportunity to prove they can hang with Southwestern 4A power Myers Park at home in this mid-December matchup.
Cannon School at Charlotte Country Day, Tuesday, Jan. 8: The Cougars get a chance to prove they can be a legitimate CISAA contender in the conference opener at Charlotte Country Day in early January.
Concord First Assembly at Gaston Day, Tuesday, Jan. 15: The defending MAC champions will likely get their toughest test in league play in this road game at Gaston Day.
Hickory Ridge at Myers Park, Tuesday, Feb. 5 and Hickory Ridge at Butler, Friday, Feb. 8: These two road games in early February will likely determine if Hickory Ridge can repeat as SW4A conference champions.
Northwest Cabarrus at Central Cabarrus, Friday, February 8: Rivalry game could decide the SPC regular season champion and will definitely have SPC tournament and playoff seeding implications.
Concord at A.L. Brown, Friday, February 15: There’s always a lot at stake when Spiders and the Wonders meet in the one of the best rivalries in the state in any sport, not mention it’s also a conference game.
- The Jay M. Robinson girls’ basketball team has winning record 10 of the last 11 seasons, but that streak is in jeopardy with only one starter back in the tough SPC.
- Coach Bill Middlebrooks has guided the Concord First Assembly girls’ basketball team to 20 wins or more in eight of the past nine seasons. The Eagles should have a good chance to win 20-plus games again this year.
- The Cox Mill girls’ basketball team has averaged only eight wins per season in the last four years. But with all five starters returning to the lineup, led by junior guard Nya Tillery (7 ppg, 6 rpg), the Chargers (10-15 last year) should have a chance to flirt with a .500 or even better record.
- Former Concord First Assembly football coach, Craig Kean, takes over a Mount Pleasant girls’ basketball program that has struggled recently going 30-93 in the last five years, including 5-20 overall a year ago. Now, Kean and company look to rebuild the Tigers’ team and climb back up the Rocky River conference standings.
Note: Conference standings predictions were compiled from the votes of each leagues’ coaches.
- Providence Day; 2. Charlotte Latin; 3. Charlotte Country Day; 4. Cannon School; 5. Covenant Day; 6. Charlotte Christian.
Metrolina Athletic Conference (MAC) Girls
- Concord First Assembly; 2. Gaston Day; 3. Metrolina Christian; 4. Hickory Grove; 5. Northside Christian; 6. SouthLake Christian; 7. Westminster Catawba; 8. Gaston Christian.
Piedmont Athletic Conference 8 (PAC 8) Girls
- Union Academy; 2. Community School of Davidson; 3. Pine Lake Prep; 4. Mountain Island Charter; 5. Langtree Charter; 6. Carolina International; 7. Bradford Prep; 8. Queens Grant.
Rocky River Girls’
- West Stanly; 2. Anson County; 3. Forest Hills; 4. Mount Pleasant; 5. Central Academy; 6. East Montgomery.
South Piedmont Girls
- Central Cabarrus; 2. Northwest Cabarrus; 3. Jay M. Robinson; 4. Cox Mill; 5. Concord; 6. A.L. Brown.
Southwestern 4A Girls’
- Hickory Ridge; 2. Butler; 3. Myers Park; 4. Independence; 5. Rocky River; 6. Porter Ridge; 7. East Mecklenburg; 8. Garinger.