The Observer previews teams that will be ranked in the preseason girls basketball Sweet 16 Sunday
Head Coach: Kelvin Brim (1st year as Berry head coach).
2017-18 Record: 19-7 (8-4 in the SoMeck7 conference).
Returning Starters (2): Jordan McLaughlin, Sr., G (5-6); Kendall Terry, Jr., G (5-6).
Key Newcomers: Naomi Bazemore, Fr., F (6-0).
Outlook: The Cardinals have quietly averaged 20 wins per season over the past three years. This season, senior point guard, Jordan McLaughlin (19 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg, 4 spg), a Mercer University commit, returns to power a team has proven they can hang in one of toughest leagues in the state. McLaughlin also gives them an elite guard that can take over a game, making Berry a difficult potential playoff matchup.
CENTRAL CABARRUS VIKINGS
Head Coach: Brandon Blalock (6th year as Central Cabarrus head coach; 112-98 at Central Cabarrus).
2017-18 Record: 16-11 (9-1 in the South Piedmont conference (SPC).
Returning Starters (3): Aniyah Tate, Jr., F (5-8); Ja-el Miller, Jr., G (5-5); Serenity Webb, So., G (5-5).
Key Newcomers: Demi Case, Jr., G (5-5); Mariah Barrie, Fr., G (5-9).
Outlook: 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 deeper into the postseason after a 1st-round playoff loss ended their season abruptly last year.
MORGANTON FREEDOM PATRIOTS
Head Coach: Amber Reddick (15th year as Freedom basketball coach; 305-90 in coaching career).
2017-18 Record: 23-5 (13-1 in the Northwestern 3A/4A conference).
Returning Starters (5): Aysha Short, So., G (5-7); Madison Bailey, Sr., G (5-10); Blaikley Crooks, Jr., G (5-10); Adair Garrison, So., F (6-1); C.C. Davenport, Sr., F/C (6-0).
Key Newcomers: Christena Rhone, Fr., G (5-2).
Outlook: The Patriots are loaded with experience and talent, returning 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)), Bailey 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, second round playoff loss.