Teams to Watch
Shelby: The Golden Lions return four starters from a 15-win team that finished as SW2A conference runner-up. This year, three four-year starters in seniors L’Mia Littlejohn (18 ppg), Neutika Degree (7 ppg, 7 apg) and Saniya Watkins (8 ppg, 8 rpg) hope to make their final season their best and challenge for the SW2A conference title and more into the postseason.
Kings Mountain: The Mountaineers return four starters, led by senior guard Hannah Clark (18 ppg) that will go at a frenetic pace. Kings Mountain believes they have the experience and talent to contend in the Big South conference. The Mountaineers last conference title came in 1984.
Players to Watch
L’Mia Littlejohn, Shelby senior: The Golden Lions’ guard (18 ppg) will be one of Shelby’s top playmakers on an experienced team with great expectations for conference and postseason play.
Kate Hollifield, Shelby freshman: The 5-foot-9 freshman guard already has Division I college interest, according to coach Jason Smith, before suiting up for her first high school game.
Hannah Clark, Kings Mountain senior: The Wingate commit (18 ppg) is on pace to score 2,000 career points. Clark also hopes to finish her Kings Mountain career by helping her team contend in the Big South conference and return to the playoffs.
Niyya Green, Crest senior: The Chargers’ guard (10 ppg) is one of five starters back on a Crest team that believes it can be much improved after winning just two games last season.
Can’t Miss Games
Kings Mountain at Shelby: The Mountaineers’ season opener will be a great early season test against a proven, Cleveland County rival.
Crest at Shelby, Friday, Dec. 7 and Shelby at Crest, Friday, Dec. 14: Cleveland County archrivals meet on back-to-back Friday nights in December where early season momentum and neighborhood bragging rights will be on the line.
Shelby at Burns, Wednesday, Dec. 12: A big early season game for the Cleveland County rivals looking to gain confidence in the non-conference slate.
Kings Mountain at Ashbrook, Tuesday, Feb. 5: If the Mountaineers are going to be serious contenders in the Big South conference they will have to knock off some of the league’s traditional powers. Kings Mountain also hosts Ashbrook, Jan. 8
East Rutherford at Shelby, Friday, Feb. 8: The Southwestern 2A conference title could be on the line on the second to last Friday of the regular season when the Golden Lions host the reigning league champions. Shelby also travels to East Rutherford Jan. 22.
Kings Mountain freshman guard Saniya Wilson, a Gaston Day transfer, should help the Mountaineers immediately after averaging 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals per game as an eighth-grader, when she earned all-Metrolina Athletic conference (MAC) honors.
First-year Kings Mountain head coach Nicholas Inman takes over the Mountaineers girls’ program after serving the previous seven years as the Kings Mountain boys’ jayvee coach and varsity assistant.
The Crest girls’ basketball team has struggled in recently years, going 15-58 over the past two seasons. But this year, coach Jessica Brunson returns all five starters and looks to be much improved in the win column and in the Big South conference race.
Note: Conference standings predictions were compiled from the votes of each leagues’ coaches.
Big South Girls
North Gaston; 2. Ashbrook; 3. Forestview; 4. Kings Mountain; 5. Hunter Huss; 6. Burns; 7. Crest; 8. Stuart Cramer.
Southwestern 2A Girls
East Rutherford; 2. Shelby; 3. R.S. Central; 4. East Gaston; 5. South Point; 6. Chase.