Teams to Watch
Freedom: The Patriots return all five starters from a team that has averaged 26 wins per season over the last six years. Freedom has four all-Northwestern 3A/4A conference players back in Madison Bailey (10 points per game (ppg)), Blaikley Crooks (15 ppg), C.C. Davenport (8 ppg, 11 rpg) and Adair Garrison (12 ppg), who have plenty of motivation after their 23-win season ended in a tough, 2nd round playoff loss.
East Burke: The Cavaliers also return all five starters from a 27-2 team a year ago. The East Burke backcourt of senior Brooke Arney (13 ppg) and juniorJosie Hise (16.9 ppg) look to repeat at Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference champions and make another deep playoff run (advanced to 3rd round of 2A state playoffs last year).
Patton: The Panthers were much improved last season going from four wins in 2016-17 to a 15-12 mark in 2017-18 campaign. This year, with four starters back led by sophomores Danisha Hemphill (12 ppg) and Reece Fisher (8 ppg), Patton looks to take the next step and contend for a Northwest Foothills’ conference title and make a playoff run.
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Players to Watch
Blaikley Crooks, Freedom junior: The Patriots’ 5-foot-10 all-conference guard will fill up the stat sheet again (15 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg) for a strong Freedom backcourt, where she teams with Bailey and Aysha Short.
C.C. Davenport, Freedom senior: The Patriots 6-foot post (8 ppg, 11 rpg) makes a strong one-two punch inside with 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Adair Garrison (12 ppg, 7 rpg as a freshman.)
Josie Hise, East Burke junior: The Cavaliers 5-foot-7 junior proved she can do it all, averaging 16.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.9 steals per game in an all-conference sophomore season last year.
Danisha Hemphill, Patton sophomore: The 5-foot-7 guard had a standout freshman year averaging 12 points, five rebounds and three steals per game, including a 33-point explosion in a win over Fred T. Foard, Jan. 19.
Jenna Davis, Draughn guard: The 5-foot-6 senior all-conference point guard (9.1 ppg) is back lead a Wildcats’ team that looks to continue to improve after a 14-13 record a year ago.
Can’t Miss Games
Freedom at East Burke, Friday, Nov. 30: The Burke county powers meet in the second game of the season for both teams. East Burke travels to Freedom on Friday, December 21, for a rematch.
East Burke at Patton, Tuesday, Dec. 18: If Patton is going to contend for the Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference title they will need to hold serve at home against the reigning league champions.
Freedom Christmas Tournament, Dec. 26-28: Most of Burke County’s best boys’ and girls’ teams will be on display together in three-day, holiday event.
Freedom at Hickory, Tuesday, Jan. 29: This game could decide the Northwestern 3A/4A conference title as traditional league powers meet in late January.
Patton at Draughn, Friday, Feb. 15: This meeting the last Friday of the regular season should be very meaningful in the Northwest Foothills’ 2A standings and could also have playoff seeding implications for both teams.
East Burke junior Sarah Grace Locke didn’t play last year after having brain surgery. This year, Locke is back and ready to play again, according to Cavaliers’ coach Crystal Barnett.
The Freedom girls’ basketball team has been one of the most consistent winners in the state in any classification, winning 20 or more game for 10 straight years.
5-foot-2 Freedom freshman guard Christena Rhone should help “the rich get richer,” this season after averaging 22 points per game as an eighth grader in middle school, where she was two-time middle school athlete of the year.
Both Draughn and Patton girls’ basketball teams were much improved last year. Draughn won 14 games last season, after going 9-17 the previous year, while Patton increased their win total from four victories in 2016-17 to 15 wins a year ago.
Note: Conference standings predictions were compiled from the votes of each leagues’ coaches.
Northwest Foothills’ 2A Girls’
East Burke; 2. Draughn; 3. Patton; 4. Bunker Hill; 5. West Iredell; 6. Hibriten; 7. Fred T. Foard.
Northwestern 3A/4A Girls’
Freedom; 2. Hickory; 3. Watauga; 4. McDowell; 5. South Caldwell; 6. West Caldwell;
7. St. Stephens; 8. Alexander Central.