Prep Insider Blog

Charlotte Observer 2019-20 girls high school basketball county previews

High school basketball season is here, and here is your 2019-20 girls high school basketball previews.

Information was not available for Observer-area schools in Upper State South Carolina or Gaston County.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

TEAMS TO WATCH

Ardrey Kell: The Knights have averaged 25 wins per season over the last four years, but this year the defending SoMeck7 conference champions have the talent, led by Evan Miller to make a run at another.

Butler: The Bulldogs won 28 games last year, claiming the Southwestern 4A (SW4A) conference title on their way to the 4A state semifinals. This year, with senior Micahla Funderburk (15 ppg), Michaela Lane (14 ppg) and Payton Sutton (7 ppg, 6 apg) back, Butler is a legitimate 4A state championship contender.

Charlotte Catholic: The Cougars return four starters, led by senior Dane Bertolina (15 ppg), from a 22-win team that will look to challenge Cuthbertson for the Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC) title and more into the postseason.

Hopewell: The Titans have proved they can hang in the I-Meck 4A conference with the likes of Mallard Creek, North Mecklenburg and Vance. This year, guards Nevaeh Caldwell (10 ppg) and Aniya Finger (18 ppg) look to help Hopewell stay in the upper half of the league race, which will have them more than ready to make a postseason run.

Mallard Creek: The Mavericks have won 103 games in the last four years, proving they are one of the best teams in the state. This year, Mallard Creek reloads with Davidson Day transfer Nevaeh Brown (Wake Forest commit), junior Kennedy Simpson (lone returning starter) and freshman Samyha Suffren, now playing the lead roles on a team that lost four players to Division I college basketball, but still has the talent to be 4A state contenders.

Providence: The Panthers look to build on their best season in school history (20-6) from a year ago, and will go as far as junior point guard, Nyla McGill (13 ppg) can take them.

Rocky River: The Ravens return all five starters from a 19-win team a year ago, and will need to Delayzha Dixon (19 ppg) and Mashya Scott (16 ppg) to have big seasons again for the Rocky River to contend in the SW4A and more into the playoffs.

South Mecklenburg: coach Cristie Mitchell has built the Sabres into a consistent winner (21 wins per season over the past three years) and has the experience with four starters back, led by sophomore Senali Moss (12 ppg), to a contender in the SoMeck7 conference and make a playoff run.

Vance: The Cougars return four starters, including Leah Barringer (8 ppg), Tanajah Hayes (10 ppg), Keyonna Morgan (9 ppg) and Amaya Moreland (8 ppg), from a 26-win team that has “1 team, 1 dream,” meaning their goal from day one is a 4A state championship, according to Coach Donnell Rhyne.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Dane Bertolina, Charlotte Catholic: The 5-foot-10 senior guard and Appalachian State commit (15 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 spg) was the Southern Carolinas’ conference player of the year as a junior and looks to be at even better in her final high school season.

Nevaeh Brown, Mallard Creek: The 5-foot-8 senior guard (Davidson Day transfer) and Wake Forest commit was an all-state performer for the NCISAA 2A champion Patriots last year and will play a lead role for the Mavericks this season.

Delayzha Dixon, Rocky River: The 5-foot-6 senior is big-time playmaker averaging 19 points and 13 rebounds per game as a junior.

Aniya Finger, Hopewell: The 6-foot senior forward, Arkansas State commit (18 ppg, 12 rpg) is a double-double machine for the Titans.

Tanajah Hayes, Vance: The 5-foot-6 guard (10 ppg, 5 apg, 4 apg, 4 spg) plays a lead role for a loaded Cougars’ team that wants nothing less than a 4A state championship.

Taylor Henderson, Myers Park: The 5-foot-10 junior guard (17 ppg) will need to be at hest for the Mustangs to stay in the upper echelon of the SW4A standings.

Michaela Lane, Butler: The 6-foot-1 senior fills up the entire stat sheet, averaging 14 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals per game for a 28-win, 4A state semifinalist team last year, and is hungry for more this season.

Nyla McGill, Providence: The 5-foot-7 junior point guard (Yale University commit) runs the show (13 ppg, 8 apg, 7 rpg) for the Panthers.

Braylyn Milton, Independence: The 5-foot-11 junior guard (16 ppg) looks to lead the Patriots back up the SW4A standings.

Jessica Timmons, North Mecklenburg: The 5-foot-9 junior all-state guard (24 ppg, 8 rpg) is being recruited by schools from every major Division I conference, according to North Mecklenburg basketball coach, Jennifer Baker.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Evan Miller, Ardrey Kell: The 5-foot-11 junior guard and UNC Wilmington commit a major part of another balanced, Ardrey Kell attack.

Kamiah Moore, West Charlotte: The 5-foot-8 senior all-conference guard (15 ppg, 5 rpg) leads a young, Lions’ team.

Senali Moss, South Mecklenburg: The 5-foot-8 sophomore guard had a breakout freshman season (12 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg, 4 spg) and should be even better this year.

Haley and Megan Seymour, Bradford Prep: The Bradford Prep twin sisters are back lead the way for Bears after combining for 24 points per game last year. Both Seymour sisters at Division I basketball recruits.

Kendall Terry, Berry: The 5-foot-6 senior all conference guard (12 ppg, 6 rpg) leads a Berry team eager to prove it can hang with SoMeck7’s best.

Lauren Whitley, Community School of Davidson: The Spartans’ junior forward (13 ppg , 5 rpg) leads a Community School of Davidson team with potential with all five starters returning.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Nevaeh Brown, Mallard Creek, 5-8, Sr.

  • Aniya Finger, Hopewell, 6-0, Sr.

  • Tanajah Hayes, Vance, 5-6, Jr.

  • Michaela Lane, Butler, 5-8, Sr.

  • Jessica Timmons, North Mecklenburg, 5-9, Jr.

NOTES

  • Christ the King has a new challenge this season as they compete in the Southern Piedmont 1A conference for the first time led by junior point guard Kylie Panizza (12 ppg).

  • Hough has a chance to be much improved with first-year coach Andrae Butts leading a team that returns all five starters, led by senior Anna Mroz (10 ppg) and Caroline Swartz (12 ppg), after starting four sophomores and a junior last year.

  • Myers Park coach Barbara Nelson is just three wins from her earning her 700th career coaching victory, which should happen in November.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

I-Meck 4A Conference

  1. Vance; 2. Mallard Creek; 3. Hopewell; 4. North Mecklenburg; 5. Lake Norman; 6. Mooresville; 7. Hough; 8. West Charlotte.

Piedmont Athletic Conference 7 (1A) (PAC 7, 1A)

  1. Union Academy; 2. Langtree Charter; 3. Mountain Island Charter; 4. Community School of Davidson; 5. Pine Lake Prep; 6. Bradford Prep; 7. Queens Grant; 8. Carolina International.

Southern Carolinas’ Conference (SCC)

  1. Cuthbertson; 2. Charlotte Catholic; 3. Weddington; 4. Piedmont; 5. Marvin Ridge; 6. Parkwood; 7. Monroe; 8. Sun Valley.

South Fork 2A Conference

  1. Newton Conover; 2. Bandys; 3. Maiden; 4. East Lincoln; 5. Lincolnton; 6. North Lincoln; 7. Lake Norman Charter; 8. West Lincoln.

South Meck 7 (SoMeck7)

  1. Ardrey Kell; 2. Providence; 3. South Mecklenburg; 4. Berry; 5. Olympic; 6. West Mecklenburg; 7. Harding.

Southwestern 4A Conference (SW4A)

  1. Butler; 2. Hickory Ridge; 3. Rocky River; 4. Independence; 5. Myers Park; 6. Porter Ridge; 7. East Mecklenburg; 8. Garinger.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY PRIVATE SCHOOLS

TEAMS TO WATCH

Davidson Day: The Patriots have proven to be a consistent winner averaging 21 wins per season over the last five years, including an NCISAA 2A state championship last year. Now, the challenge for new head coach Al Wilson is to help junior all-state guard Mallorie Haines and the Patriots defend their state title. Davidson Day has the talent to contend again, but must have several players like Jaden Graham and Jessie Wiles step forward if they can to repeat.

Victory Christian: The Kings have also won big of late with 42 wins in the last two seasons, including a NCISAA 1A state runner-up finish a year ago. This year, with four starters back, led by Assiyah Mitchell, Lydia Babirye and Jurnee Coleman, Victory Christian should have a chance to be legit NCISAA 1A contender again.

Providence Day: Providence Day has won 43 games over the past two seasons, but each season ended in a NCISAA 4A state semifinal loss. This year, with all five starters back, led by all-state performers Morgan Kelson (12 ppg) and Andi Levitz (10 ppg), the Chargers have the pieces to get back on top of the CISAA conference as they try to get back to the NCISAA 4A title game.

Charlotte Latin: The Hawks’ won the CISAA conference title last year, ending Providence Day’s 15-year reign as league champions. This year, Charlotte Latin returns four starters, led by juniors Neely Grace Tye and Elizabeth Rose, who will try to prove they can win another CISAA title and more.

Charlotte Christian: The Knights might have one of the most intriguing rosters in the area as seniors Lindsay Noonan (9 ppg) and Emma Coles (4 ppg) welcome four newcomers in Breya Busby, Mya Olmeda, Nora Schroeder and Ryan Swilling, who are all being pursued by college basketball recruiters. Just how quickly Coach Tony Busby can get his team to gel together will determine if Charlotte Christian can be a factor in the CISAA race and into the playoffs.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Breya Busby, Charlotte Christian: The 5-foot-4 junior guard and Arborbrook Christian transfer already has 11 Division I basketball offers after averaging 17 points and six assists per game. Now, Busby gets her opportunity to show what she can do in one of the best leagues (CISAA) in the state.

Kayla Ganda, Hickory Grove: The Lions’ all-state guard (10.4 ppg) is back to lead a team that won 17 games and advanced to the NCISAA 3A state quarterfinals last year, and is hungry for more this season.

Mallorie Haines, Davidson Day: The Patriots’ all-state junior sharpshooter will be lighting up scoreboards at a dizzying pace again as the 5-foot-10 guard averaged 23 points, five rebounds and four games as a sophomore and should be even better this year.

Morgan Kelson/Andi Levitz, Providence Day: The Chargers’ all-state senior duo gets it done inside with the 5-foot-10 Kelson (12 ppg, 7 rpg) and outside with the 5-foot-5 guard Levitz (10 ppg).

Assiyah Mitchell, Victory Christian: The 5-foot-9 all-state guard (8 ppg, 2 spg) will try to lead the Kings back to the state championship game, and finish the season with a victory this year.

Akira Phillips, Northside Christian: The 5-foot-9 senior (11 ppg last year) make a dynamic one-two punch with sophomore guard, Kaylee Nolen (11 ppg) as the Knights/

Neely Grace Tye, Charlotte Latin: The 5-foot-7 junior guard now takes on a lead scoring role (8 ppg last year) for a Latin team defending its CISAA conference title from a year ago.

Mary Holland Waters, Charlotte Country Day: The 5-foot-8 sophomore guard had an all-CISAA season last year (14 ppg), and should be even better this season with classmate Hudson Rixham (11 ppg) and senior, Kennedy Grier, back in the lineup.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Lydia Babirye, Victory Christian: The 5-foot-9 freshman averaged 13 points and four rebounds per game as an 8th-grader (last year), now looks to be even more productive this season.

Olivia Boyce/Amaya Glenn, Carmel Christian: The freshman duo combined for 21 points and 10 rebounds per game last season, and now look to help the Carmel Christian girls’ basketball team continue to grow together and get in the win column more frequently.

Jaden Graham, Davidson Day: The 5-foot-9 junior forward will step into a key role as the Patriots look to defend their NCISAA 2A state championship.

Alexis Hailey, Covenant Day: The 5-foot-10 freshman forward and Arborbrook Christian transfer should have an immediate impact after already play varsity as an 8th grader.

Josie Hester, United Faith: The 5-foot-10 junior guard and Langtree Charter transfer (20 ppg last year) will need to help light up the scoreboard for a young Falcons’ team.

Eseosa Imafidon, Covenant Day: The 6-foot-5 center is a Nigerian exchange student who should have a major impact in the paint for the Lions.

Elizabeth Rose, Charlotte Latin: The 6-foot junior guard (4 ppg, 5 rpg) now takes on a bigger role for a Latin team that should be a CISAA contender again with four starters back.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Breya Busby, Charlotte Christian, 5-4, Jr.
  • Mallorie Haines, Davidson Day, 5-10, Jr.
  • Morgan Kelson, Providence Day, 5-10, Sr.
  • Andi Levitz, Providence Day, 5-5, Sr.
  • Assiyah Mitchell, Victory Christian, 5-9, Sr

NOTES

  • Charlotte Country should have a great chance to post their first winning season since the 2010-11 campaign with four starters back, including the inspiring return of senior Kennedy Grier, who missed the last two years with an injury.
  • Davidson Day’s Mallorie Haines is not only one of the best players in the state (23 ppg last year), but also one of the best students in the classroom as she boasts a 4.45 grade-point average.
  • Providence Day has lost in the state semifinals the past two seasons, which would be great for a lot of teams. But coach Josh Springer and the Chargers’ goal each year is to add to their state championship lore. The Providence Day girls’ basketball team has won 16 state titles, including nine of the last 12.
  • United Faith did not have a varsity team last year, but coach Lori Finanger (20-plus years as a coach) takes over a team that including three cross country runners, three volleyball players and one soccer player.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Charlotte Area Christian Schools’ Athletic Association

  1. Comenius; 2. Covenant Classical; 3. Arborbrook Christian; 4. Grace Academy.

CISAA Conference

  1. Providence Day; 2, Cannon School; 3. Charlotte Christian; 4. Charlotte Latin; 5. Charlotte Country Day; 6. Covenant Day.

Foothills’ Athletic Conference

  1. Davidson Day; 2. Statesville Christian; 3. Hickory Christian; 4. University Christian.

Metrolina Athletic Conference (MAC)

  1. Concord First Assembly; 2. Gaston Day; 3. Metrolina Christian; 4. Gaston Christian; 5. Hickory Grove; 6. SouthLake Christian; 7. Westminster Catawba; 8. Northside Christian.

Southern Piedmont Athletic Association (SPAA)

1. Victory Christian; 2. United Faith; 3. Woodlawn School; 4. North Hills Christian.

BURKE COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATCH

Freedom: The Patriots have averaged 29 wins per season over the past four years, and are loaded with talent once again with three starters back and three more transfers that should make an immediate impact. Freedom senior Blaikley Crooks (15 ppg) and junior forward Adair Garrison (10 ppg) headline the returnees, while transfers Jayda Glass (Eastern Guilford), Josie Hise (East Burke) and Danisha Hemphill (Patton) will provide immediate scoring punch. Freedom is the favorite to win the Northwestern 3A/4A conference again and should have a great shot to be serious 3A state contenders after coming up just one win short of the title game last year.

East Burke: The Cavaliers have averaged 25 wins per seasons in the past four years under coach Crystal Bartlett. This year, East Burke looks to stay on top of the Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference with senior, Riley Haas (8 ppg), Graleigh Hildebran and Ashlyn Stillwell leading the way. If the Cavaliers can find consistent scoring inside, they will have a good chance to make another deep playoff run (2A state quarter-finalists last year).

Patton: After enduring four straight losing seasons from 2013-2017, coach Autumn Helms has helped the Panthers get back on track going 33-21 in the last two years. Patton returns four starters led by junior Reece Fisher (11 ppg), senior Claire Hawkins (7 ppg) and sophomore Zakiah King (10 rpg, 3 bpg). The Panthers believe they can contend for the Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference title, and have the backcourt experience and size to be able to make a playoff run.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Blaikley Crooks, Freedom: The 5-foot-10 senior guard (15 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg), a Lenoir-Rhyne commit, will be filling up the stat sheet once again for the Patriots.

Reece Fisher, Patton: The 5-foot-3 junior point guard (11 ppg, 2 spg) will play a lead role for Patton team that has made big strides in the last two seasons, winning 33 games.

Riley Haas, East Burke: The 5-foot-11 senior (8 ppg, 6 rpg) looks to keep the Cavaliers on top of the Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference.

Josie Hise, Freedom: The 5-foot-7, East Burke transfer (12 ppg) should excel in a Patriots’ lineup loaded with scorers.

Hailey Kincaid, Draughn: The Wildcats’ senior guard will team with classmates, Abby Parker and Bailey Shuping in a backcourt that has the experience to move up the Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference standings and get back in the playoff hunt.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Ella Abernathy, Draughn: The freshman point guard should have an immediate impact for the Wildcats, according to Draughn basketball coach Liz Taylor.

Graleigh Hildebran, East Burke: The 5-foot-8 senior guard (6 ppg) ready to play a lead role with Haas in the Cavaliers’ backcourt.

Zakiah King, Patton: The 5-foot-11 sophomore averaged six points, 10 rebounds and three block per game as a freshman, and should be even better this year.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Blaikley Crooks, Freedom, 5-10, Sr.

  • Reece Fisher, Patton, 5-3, Jr.

  • Riley Haas, East Burke, 5-11, Sr.

  • Josie Hise, Freedom, 5-7, Sr.

  • Adair Garrison, Freedom, 6-1, Jr.

NOTES

  • East Burke (12-0) and Freedom (14-0) were both undefeated in their respective conferences last year and look for a repeat performance in the 2019-20 season.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

  1. Freedom; 2. Watauga; 3. Hickory; 4. McDowell; 5. South Caldwell; 6. Alexander Central; 7. St. Stephens.

Northwest Foothills’ 2A Conference

  1. East Burke; 2. Patton; 3. Bunker Hill; 4. West Iredell; 5. Draughn; 6. Fred T. Foard; 7. West Caldwell; 8. Hibriten.

CABARRUS COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATCH

Cannon School: The Cougars return all five starters from a 15-win team that advanced to the NCISAA 4A state quarterfinals. All-state junior guard, Reigan Richardson (22 ppg, 10 rpg) leads a team that has the talent to challenge for the CISAA conference title and make another deep postseason run.

Central Cabarrus: The Vikings also return all five starters from a 17-win squad that was a perfect 10-0 in the South Piedmont conference (SPC) play, led by the all-league, senior trio in Demi Case (12 ppg), Ja’el Miller (SPC Player of the year, 15 ppg, 6 apg) and Aniyah Tate (16 ppg, 10 rpg). Central Cabarrus has the playmakers to repeat as SPC champions and be a dangerous postseason matchup with an elite backcourt.

Concord First Assembly: The Eagles have averaged 24 wins per season over the last five years, including a NCISAA 3A state runner-up finish (23-7) in the 2018-19 campaign. This year, senior guards Zy Benjamin (8 ppg), Triniti Lockhart, Baily Stinson (5 ppg) and junior Jael Hall, will give Concord First Assembly a good chance to repeat as Metrolina Athletic conference (MAC) champions, earn another 20-plus win season and be a legit, state championship contender.

Cox Mill: The Chargers enjoyed their first winning season in school history last year at 17-10. This season, Cox Mill, is led by seniors Nya Tillery (8 ppg, 8 rpg) and Kennedy Holmes (7 ppg, 7 rpg) headline a team with the experience, size and talent to contend in the SPC and be a factor past the 1st round of the 3A state playoffs.

Hickory Ridge: The Ragin’ Bulls have averaged 26 wins per season over the last four years. This year, Hickory Ridge has the backcourt experience in junior Kennedy Calhoun (13 ppg), sophomore Jasmine Fearne (7 ppg) and senior Jadah Spears (10 ppg) to contend for the Southwestern 4A conference title and make another playoff run (3rd round last year).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Zy Benjamin, Concord First Assembly: The 5-foot-8 junior guard (8 ppg) will have to step into a bigger role if the Eagles are going to remain NCISAA 3A state contenders.

Kennedy Calhoun, Hickory Ridge: The 5-foot-5 point guard will have to be a major playmaker again (13 ppg, 3 apg) for the Ragin’ Bulls to remain amongst the SW4A, state’s elite teams.

Aliciah Fields, Northwest Cabarrus: The 6-foot-3 junior (14 ppg) gives the Trojans one of the most potent inside-outside duos with sophomore point guard, Chaunesse Barringer (10 ppg), to help Northwest Cabarrus continue their ascent up the SPC standings.

Ja’el Miller, Central Cabarrus: The reigning, SPC player of the year (15 ppg, 6 apg) has the unique ability to make others around her better.

Reigan Richardson, Cannon School: The 5-foot-11 junior guard (22 ppg, 10 rpg, 4 spg) is amongst is one of the top players in the country in her class (No. 42 in the ESPN Gurlz class of 2021), with offers from 11 major Division I programs, including the University of North Carolina, according to Cannon School coach Kelvin Drakeford.

Aniyah Tate, Central Cabarrus: The 5-foot-8 senior forward (16 ppg, 10 rpg) gives the Vikings one of the most dynamic offensive duos with Miller in the state.

Nya Tillery, Cox Mill: The 5-foot-8 senior (8 ppg, 8 rpg) looks to help the Chargers build on their best season in school history.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Jala Campbell, A.L. Brown: The Wonders’ senior guard (11 ppg) will plays a lead role of a A.L. Brown team that should be much improved with all five starters back.

Jael Hall, Concord First Assembly: The 5-foot-8 junior guard should have an immediate impact on an Eagles’ team that reloads each year.

Rene Mitchell, Mount Pleasant: The 5-foot-9 senior is a key part of a Tigers’ team that took their lumps as a young group last year, and should be better for it this season.

Jadah Spears, Hickory Ridge: The 5-foot-9 senior guard (10 ppg, 4 rpg) will need to play a bigger role for the Ragin’ Bulls to stay in contention in the SW4A conference and beyond into the postseason.

Akeya Wallace, Concord: The 5-foot-9 senior forward (8 ppg, 8 rpg) is one of four starters back for a Spiders’ team looking to go back in the right direction after finishing last in the SPC last season.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Kennedy Calhoun, Hickory Ridge, 5-5, Jr.

  • Aliciah Fields, Northwest Cabarrus, 6-3, Jr.

  • Ja’el Miller, Central Cabarrus, 5-5, Sr.

  • Reigan Richardson, Cannon School, 5-11, Jr.

  • Aniyah Tate, Central Cabarrus, 5-8, Sr.

NOTES

  • 1st-year Concord coach, Brian Lytton, is looking to “rebuild” a Spiders’ team that has struggled of late with six straight losing seasons, including a 15-36 mark in the past two years.

  • New Jay M. Robinson coach, Alexis Hornbuckle, was a great player as a former WNBA and University of Tennessee standout, now she takes on the challenge on the bench, where she will try to help rebuild a Bulldogs’ team that went 2-22 last year.

  • Mount Pleasant doubled their win total last year, going 8-15 overall, and now Coach Craig Kean and company are looking to get above .500 and back in the playoff hunt.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Charlotte Area Christian Schools’ Athletic Association (CACAA)

  1. Comenius; 2. Covenant Classical; 3. Arborbrook Christian; 4. Grace Academy.

CISAA Conference

  1. Providence Day; 2. Cannon School; 3. Charlotte Christian; 4. Charlotte Latin; 5. Charlotte Country Day; 6. Covenant Day.

Metrolina Athletic Conference (MAC)

  1. Concord First Assembly; 2. Gaston Day; 3. Metrolina Christian; 4. Gaston Christian; 5. Hickory Grove; 6. SouthLake Christian; 7. Westminster Catawba; 8. Northside Christian.

Piedmont Athletic Conference 7, 1A (PAC 7, 1A)

  1. Union Academy; 2. Langtree Charter; 3. Mountain Island Charter; 4. Community School of Davidson; 5. Pine Lake Prep; 6. Bradford Prep; 7. Queens Grant; 8. Carolina International.

Rocky River Conference

  1. Forest Hills; 2. Mount Pleasant; 3. West Stanly; 4. Anson County; 5. Central Montgomery; 6. Central Academy.

South Piedmont Conference (SPC)

  1. Central Cabarrus; 2. Cox Mill; 3. Northwest Cabarrus; 4. A.L. Brown; 5. Jay M. Robinson; 6. Concord.

Southwestern 4A Conference (SW4A)

  1. Butler; 2. Hickory Ridge; 3. Rocky River; 4. Independence; 5. Myers Park; 6. Porter Ridge; 7. East Mecklenburg; 8. Garinger.

--JAY EDWARDS

CALDWELL COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATCH

South Caldwell: The Spartans return all five starters from a team that has struggled in last two years (17-31) but has the experience, led by seniors Taylor Austin and Catherine Huggins, as well as junior Kaitlyn Propst, to move up the Northwestern 3A/4A (NW3A/4A) conference standings and get into the playoff picture.

West Caldwell: The Warriors should benefit from the move from 3A to 2A with senior forward Jaleah Battle (19 ppg) back to lead the way, but nothing will come easy in a competitive, Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Taylor Austin/Catherine Huggins, South Caldwell: The Spartans’ senior duo along with junior, Kaitlyn Propst, give South Caldwell a backcourt that can help win more games.

Jaleah Battle, West Caldwell: The 5-foot-10 senior forward (19 ppg) will be a major force inside as the Warriors move into a new league (Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference).

Danielle Muniz, Hibriten: The 5-foot-5, all-conference point guard (6 ppg) back to direct the Panthers’ offense.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Cam Crisp, West Caldwell: The 5-foot-7 junior (8 ppg) had a solid sophomore season and will be expected to produce even more this year.

Faith Curtis, South Caldwell: The 6-foot junior transfer from Oklahoma should have an immediate impact for the Spartans.

Jaylen Fox, Hibriten: The 5-foot-9 senior center (3 ppg, 8 rpg) will be counted on inside if the Panthers are going to win more consistently.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Taylor Austin, South Caldwell, 5-4, Sr.

  • Jaleah Battle, West Caldwell, 5-10, Sr.

  • Catherine Huggins, South Caldwell, 5-6, Sr.

  • Danielle Muniz, Hibriten, 5-5, Sr.

  • Kaitlin Propst, South Caldwell, 5-5, Jr.

NOTES

  • Hibriten has struggled of late winning just 12 games in the last three years combined, but will look to seniors, Jaylen Fox, Danielle Muniz and sophomore Miquisha Pataterson to help it climb out of the bottom of the Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference.

  • West Caldwell basketball coach Brad Mangum is also a standout golfer. He has a 2.5-handicap playing competitively with the Carolinas Golf Association (CGA) and United States’ Golf Association (USGA), most recently qualifying for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in Colorado.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Northwestern 3A/4A

  1. Freedom; 2. Watauga; 3. Hickory; 4. McDowell; 5. South Caldwell; 6. Alexander Central; 7. St. Stephens.

Northwest Foothills’ 2A Conference

  1. East Burke; 2. Patton; 3. Bunker Hill; 4. West Iredell; 5. Draughn; 6. Fred T. Foard; 7. West Caldwell; 8. Hibriten.

CATAWBA COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATCH

Bandys: The Trojans have improved from eight to 10 to 16 wins in the coach Nicki Sigmon’s tenure. This year, Bandys has the talent to take another step forward with all-conference sophomores Logan Dutka and Macy Rummage leading a team that is still young but should contend for the South Fork 2A conference title.

Bunker Hill: The Bears return four starters from a team that won 20 games led by junior point guard Addison Wray (21 ppg) and senior forward, Madison Stotts (13 ppg), who will give Bunker Hill a chance to be a major factor in the Northwest Foothills’ 2A race. Former Bunker Hill boys’ coach Lee Swanson is also a big addition, moving over to lead the girls’ team this season.

Hickory: The Red Tornadoes have averaged 20 wins per season over the last five years. This year, Hickory will look to seniors Shelby Darden (12 ppg, 7 rpg) and Kayla Soublet, to help stay in the top half of the Northwestern 3A/4A (NW3A/4A) conference and get back into the postseason, where a Barbara Helms’ coached team is always a tough matchup.

Newton Conover: The Red Devils return four starters, led by 6-foot-3 all state center Chyna Cornwell (28 ppg, 21 rpg, Rutgers commit). Cornwell has plenty of support in senior guards Jahlea Peters (9 ppg) and Aaliah Walton (7 ppg) as well as junior forward Grace Loftin (7 ppg, 7 rpg), which should give them a chance to be a legitimate, 2A state contender.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Cree Bass, Maiden: The 5-foot-6 senior sat out last season with an injury. This year, Bass -- who averaged 11 points, four rebounds and four assists per game as a sophomore -- should be a major boast to the Blue Devils lineup as they look to get back in the upper echelon of the South Fork 2A conference.

Chyna Cornwell, Newton Conover: The 6-foot-3 center, Rutgers commit is amongst the most dominate players in the state, averaging 28 points, 21 rebounds and three block per game.

Fred T. Foard Seniors: Elayna Chavis, Aleijah Hill and Alexis Wolgemuth all return to the starting lineup as they look to finish their high school careers with the Tigers first winning season in seven years.

Shelby Darden, Hickory: The 6-foot-4 senior (12 ppg, 7 rpg) will have to be even bigger inside if the Red Tornadoes are going to stay in contention in the NW3A/4A conference.

Logan Dutka/Macy Rummage, Bandys: The Trojans’ all-conference duo both had breakout freshman seasons, and look to prove they can be even better as sophomores.

Addison Wray, Bunker Hill: The 5-foot-8 junior point guard (21 ppg) is a major weapon with the ball in her hands in the Bears’ fast-paced attack.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Gracie Arrowood, Maiden: The 5-foot-3 senior point guard (10 ppg, 6 apg) directs a veteran team that should be much improved this season.

Savannah Pope, Hickory Christian: The 5-foot-9 sophomore (8 ppg, 8 rpg) will team with junior, Cullen Fulcher, to provide Hickory Christian a nice one-two punch inside.

Jalea Peters/Aaliah Walton, Newton Conover: The Red Devils’ guards combined to average 16 points per game last year and will have plenty of room to operate with the attention on Cornwell.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Cree Bass, Maiden, 5-6, Sr.

  • Chyna Cornwell, Newton Conover, 6-3, Sr.

  • Shelby Darden, Hickory, 6-4, Sr.

  • Logan Dutka, Bandys, 5-11, So.

  • Addison Wray, Bunker Hill, 5-8, Jr.

NOTES

  • Fred T. Foard went 12-15 last year, its most wins since its last winning season in 2012-13.

  • Maiden averaged 20 wins per season from 2016-18, before slipping to 9-17 last year, but returns all five starters and senior Cree Bass, who sat out last year with an injur.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Foothills’ Athletic Conference

  1. Davidson Day; 2. Statesville Christian; 3. Hickory Christian; 4. University Christian.

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

  1. Freedom; 2. Watauga; 3. Hickory; 4. McDowell; 5. South Caldwell; 6. Alexander Central; 7. St. Stephens.

Northwest Foothills’ 2A Conference (NWF2A)

  1. East Burke; 2. Patton; 3. Bunker Hill; 4. West Iredell; 5. Draughn; 6. Fred T. Foard; 7. West Caldwell; 8. Hibriten.

South Fork 2A Conference

  1. Newton Conover; 2. Bandys; 3. Maiden; 4. East Lincoln; 5. Lincolnton; 6. North Lincoln; 7. Lake Norman Charter; 8. West Lincoln.

CLEVELAND COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATCH

Kings Mountain: The Mountaineers had a season to remember winning 23 games, including their first conference title (Big South) since 1983 last year. This season, sophomore guard Saniya Wilson (13 ppg) and senior Essence Houser (6 ppg) will try to help the Mountaineers defend their league title and make another deep playoff run, but they will need some younger players to emerge to accomplish their goals.

Shelby: The Golden Lions have been solid, winning 32 games in the last two seasons, including a 17-8 mark last year. This season, sophomore sensation Kate Hollifield (23 ppg), senior Mashayla Clyde and freshman Ally Hollifield will try to help Shelby contend for a Southwestern 2A conference title, and make a playoff run after a 1st round exit last year.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Kate Hollifield, Shelby: The 5-foot-9 sophomore averaged 23 points and seven rebounds per game as a freshman and should be even better this year.

Vaniyah Petty, Crest: The 5-foot-7 junior guard (8 ppg) plays a lead role for a Chargers’ team that has the experience to be a much improved squad this season.

Bryone Spikes, Burns: The 5-foot-8 senior (13 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 spg) will fill up the stat-sheet with sophomore center Tishiona Strong (14 ppg, 8 rpg) again this season.

Saniya Wilson, Kings Mountain: The 5-foot-6 sophomore point guard (13 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg) now must play a lead role for the defending, Big South 3A conference champions.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Macey Earl, Burns: The 5-foot-10 senior guard (9 ppg) should help give Burns a balanced attack with Spikes and Strong.

Ally Hollifield, Kings Mountain: The 5-foot-6 freshman guard looks to add to her family’s impressive resume at Shelby by having an immediate impact for the Golden Lions.

Essence Houser, Kings Mountain: The 5-foot-6 senior guard (6 ppg) should provide a solid one-two punch with Wilson in the Mountaineers’ backcourt.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Kate Hollifield, Shelby, 5-9, So.

  • Vaniyah Petty, Crest, 5-7, Jr.

  • Bryone Spikes, Burns, 5-8, Sr.

  • Tishiona Strong, Burns, 6-0, So.

  • Saniya Wilson, Kings Mountain, 5-6, So.

NOTES

  • Burns should benefit from the move down to class 2A, after being in one of the most competitive leagues in the state in the Big South 3A previously.

  • Crest looks to be improved with three starters back, led by junior Vaniyah Petty, on a team that has taken its lumps going 5-41 in the last two years. Crest hasn’t had a winning season since 2014-15.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Big South Conference

  1. Ashbrook; 2. Kings Mountain; 3. Forestview; 4. North Gaston; 5. Hunter Huss; 6. Crest; 7. Stuart Cramer.

Southwestern 2A (SW2A) Conference

  1. Shelby; 2. East Rutherford; 3. R.S. Central; 4. Burns; 5. East Gaston; 6. Chase; 7. South Point.

--JAY EDWARDS

IREDELL COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATH

Lake Norman: The Wildcats have struggled in recent years with four straight losing seasons. But with all five starters back, led by senior point guard Lauren Sullivan (18 ppg) this might be Lake Norman’s best shot to earn their first winning season since 2013-14, which should also put them in the playoff picture.

Langtree Charter: The Lions won a school-record 27 games last year, advancing to the second round of the 1A state playoffs. This year, Langtree Charter has the experience and talent with senior forward Adaje Williams (18 ppg) and Statesville transfer Tyaysia Sharpe (14 ppg), leading a team that will contend for the PAC 7 1A conference title and will be a dangerous playoff matchup with multiple weapons to attack their opponents in their uptempo style of play.

Pine Lake Prep: The Pride slipped to 15-12 last year after 43 wins in the previous two seasons. This year, Pine Lake Prep returns four starters led by guards, Josalyn Johnson (10 ppg) and Carly Scholl (14 ppg). If the Pride can find consistent scoring inside they should finish in the top half of the PAC 7, 1A conference again and earn a favorable playoff seed.

Statesville: The Greyhounds must reload a bit after losing their top two scorers from a 23-win team a year ago. But, seniors Hannah Hoffman, Natalia Keaton and junior Sha’Kiya Bowman, will try to help Statesville stay in the middle of the NPC race and playoff hunt.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bailey Barzee, North Iredell: The lone returning starter will have to play a bigger role inside for the Raiders to win 20-plus games again this season.

Megan Bornkamp, Mooresville: The 5-foot-9 senior guard looks to play a lead role after taking a year off to focus on soccer and international travel, according to Mooresville basketball coach Jay Clark.

Lariyah Clark/Nakyla Heaggans, West Iredell: The West Iredell forwards combined to average 26 points and 17 rebounds for the Warriors as freshmen last year. This season, Coach Parsons expects both players to be even more productive, which should translate into more wins for West Iredell.

Natalia Keaton, Statesville: The 5-foot-4 senior point guard (5 ppg) will have to step into a bigger role for Statesville to stay in the upper half of the NPC standings.

Sarah Nelson, South Iredell: The 5-foot-4 senior guard (13 ppg) gives the Vikings a solid backcourt with classmates Lindsay Durham and Lydia Mercer (9 ppg), which should help South Iredell be a much improved team this season.

Tyaysia Sharpe/Adaje Williams, Langtree Charter: The Langtree Charter senior duo provides the Lions with two major offensive weapons with Williams, a 5-foot-11 center (18 ppg) inside and Sharpe, a 5-foot-7 guard, on the outside.

Carly Scholl, Pine Lake Prep: The 5-foot-8 senior shooting guard (14 ppg) will play a major role in the Pride’s success this season.

Lauren Sullivan, Lake Norman: The 6-foot senior point guard (18 ppg) can take over a game and should give Lake Norman to have a good chance to post their first winning season in six years.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Lindsay Durham, South Iredell: The 5-foot-8 senior guard is coming off an ACL injury from last year and should be “game changer” for the Vikings, according to South Iredell basketball coach Marcus Chambers.

Hannah Hoffman, Statesville: The 5-foot-11 senior center (3 ppg, 3 rpg) will have to play bigger inside if the Greyhounds are going remain a factor in the NPC race.

Joselyn Johnson, Pine Lake Prep: The 5-foot-6 junior guard (10 ppg) should form a nice backcourt duo with Scholl to help lead the Pride this season.

Emerie Tillmon, Langtree Charter: The 5-foot-8 junior guard is another weapon for a deep, Lions’ team.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Megan Bornkamp, Mooresville, 5-9, Sr.

  • Lariyah Clark, West Iredell, 5-10, So.

  • Tyaysia Sharpe, Langtree Charter, 5-7, Sr.

  • Lauren Sullivan, Lake Norman, 6-0, Sr.

  • Adaje Williams, Langtree Charter, 5-11, Sr.

NOTES

  • North Iredell coach Roger Bumgarner’s teams have averaged 23 wins per season over the last four years, but with only one starter back in Barzee, that streak could be in jeopardy despite the Raiders’ tradition of success.

  • West Iredell might be the shortest team in the area without a player 6-feet or taller, according to Warriors’ coach, David Parsons.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Foothills’ Athletic Conference

  1. Davidson Day; 2. Statesville Christian; 3. Hickory Christian; 4. University Christian.

I-Meck 4A Conference

  1. Vance; 2. Mallard Creek; 3. Hopewell; 4. North Mecklenburg; 5. Lake Norman; 6. Mooresville; 7. Hough; 8. West Charlotte.

North Piedmont Conference (NPC)

  1. Carson; 2. West Rowan; 3. East Rowan; 4. Statesville; 5. North Iredell; 6. South Iredell.

Northwest Foothills’ 2A Conference (NWF2A)

  1. East Burke; 2. Patton; 3. Bunker Hill; 4. West Iredell; 5. Draughn; 6. Fred T. Foard; 7. West Caldwell; 8. Hibriten.

Piedmont Athletic Conference 7 (PAC 7), 1A

  1. Union Academy; 2. Langtree Charter; 3. Mountain Island Charter; 4. Community School of Davidson; 5. Pine Lake Prep; 6. Bradford Prep; 7. Queens Grant; 8. Carolina International.

LINCOLN COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATCH

East Lincoln: The Mustangs return all five starters, including four seniors to a team with something to prove after going 8-18 last year. This season, East Lincoln will look to senior guards Briana Tadlock (21 ppg) and Sara Rhoney to help make a move up the South Fork 2A standings and back into the playoffs.

Lincoln Charter: The Eagles return all five starters from a squad that won 16 games, including the SPC 1A conference title last year. This season, seniors Felicity Fields (11 ppg), Natalie Hamlen (8 ppg, 7 rpg), Hannah Hansley (8 ppg, 7 rpg), Alyssa Wright and sophomore Lauren Horton (14 ppg) look to help Lincoln Charter repeat as league champions and make a deeper playoff run after falling in the second round a year ago.

Lincolnton: The Wolves return only one starter in sophomore Diamond Ross from an 11-11 team, but have plenty of experience back to stay in middle of the South Fork 2A conference race and in the playoff picture.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Felicity Fields, Lincoln Charter: The 5-foot-7 senior point guard (11 ppg) is back to lead a potent Eagles’ offensive attack with all five starters returning to the defending SPC 1A conference champions.

Diamond Ross, Lincolnton: The 5-foot-4 sophomore (8 ppg, 3 apg, 3 spg) had a breakout freshman year and looks to be even better in year two.

Briana Tadlock, East Lincoln: The 5-foot-7 senior (21 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 spg) can light up a scoreboard in a hurry for the Mustangs, and looks to be at her best in her senior season.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Alexa Bierberich/Katie Willis, West Lincoln: The Rebels’ senior duo play lead roles for a younger, West Lincoln squad.

Sara Rhoney, East Lincoln: The 5-foot-5 senior guard will team with Tadlock to provide the Mustangs a solid backcourt.

Leah Tweed, Lincolnton: The 5-foot-7 junior guard (3 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 spg) showed promise as a sophomore and will need to play an even bigger role this season.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Felicity Fields, Lincoln Charter, 5-7, Sr.

  • Hannah Hansley, Lincoln Charter, 5-10, Sr.

  • Lauren Horton, Lincoln Charter, 5-7, So.

  • Diamond Ross, Lincolnton, 5-4, So.

  • Briana Tadlock, East Lincoln, 5-7, Sr.

NOTES

  • North Lincoln won just six games in a four year span (2013-17), but has improved going 23-23 the last two years, and new coach David Johnson looks to help keep that momentum going forward.

  • West Lincoln has struggled going 10-88 in the last four years with their last winning season coming in 2008-09, but coach Lance Watson has three starters back to help try to win more consistently.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

South Fork 2A Girls

  1. Newton Conover; 2. Bandys; 3. Maiden; 4. East Lincoln; 5. Lincolnton; 6. North Lincoln; 7. Lake Norman Charter; 8. West Lincoln.

South Piedmont 1A Girls

  1. Lincoln Charter; 2. Christ the King; 3. Cherryville; 4. Highland Tech; 5. Thomas Jefferson Academy; 6. Piedmont Community Charter; 7. Bessemer City.

--JAY EDWARDS

1 COUNTY SCHOOLS

TEAMS TO WATCH

Ashe County: The Huskies had a great spring and summer playing more than 200 games to prepare for this season. Ashe County returns three starters, led by Hallie Treva (15 ppg) and Jordan Jones, who should contend for the Mountain Valley Athletic conference title and get back to the playoffs.

Avery County: The Vikings will have to reload with only one starter back in junior forward Reagan Hughes (2 ppg). But former assistant coach Allison Phillips believes newcomers can emerge to help Avery County stay near the top of the Western Highlands’ 1A/2A conference and return to the postseason.

Watauga: The Pioneers have won 58 games in the last three years, and return four starters, ley by seniors Brooke Byrd (10 ppg) and Rebekah Farthing (10 ppg), which gives them the experience to contend for the Northwestern 3A/4A conference (NW3A/4A) title and make another playoff run (3rd round last year).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brooke Byrd/Rebekah Farthing, Watauga: The Pioneers’ 5-foot-9 senior guards give Watauga one of the best one-two punches in the area (20 ppg combined last year).

Revie Byars, Anson County: The 6-foot-1 senior forward will play a lead role if the Bearcats are going to stay in the hunt in the Rocky River conference.

Reagan Hughes, Avery County: The lone returning starters (2 ppg, 3 rpg) will have to provide leadership for a young team to succeed.

Teagan Pennell, Alexander Central: The senior guard teams with classmate, Lanie Hammer (6 ppg) to give the Cougars a backcourt that can help them win more games (6-43 last two years).

Hallie Treva, Ashe County: The 5-foot-9, all-conference performer (15 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 spg) will have to be big for the Huskies to contend in the Mountain Valley Athletic (1A/2A) conference and get past the 1st round of the playoffs.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Nikki Hagy, Alexander Central: The 5-foot-9 junior (5 ppg, 10 rpg) will need to play a bigger role inside for the Cougars to be more consistent.

Jordan Jones, Ashe County: The 6-foot sophomore forward (4 ppg, 5 rpg) had a nice freshman season and will be expected to be more productive this year.

Brelyn Sturgill, Watauga: The 5-foot-8 sophomore guard/forward (7 ppg, 5 rpg) also had a strong freshman campaign and should be even better this year in an experienced lineup.

PRESEASON TEAM

  • Revie Byars, Anson County, 6-1, Sr.

  • Brooke Byrd, Watauga, 5-9, Sr.

  • Rebekah Farthing, Watauga, 5-9, Sr.

  • Teagan Pennell, Alexander Central, 5-6, Sr.

  • Hallie Treva, Ashe County, 5-9, Sr.

NOTES

  • Ashe County is probably the tallest team in area with four players over 5-foot-11.

  • New Richmond Senior coach, Rosalind McDonald looks to help the Raiders have their 1st winning season since the 2013-14 campaign.

  • Watauga coach, Laura Barry, a former University of North Carolina basketball player, is the head coach of both the Pioneers’ boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball teams.

  • Watauga senior guard, Rebekah Farthing, is a key player for Pioneers’ basketball team, but is even better on the volleyball court, where she has committed to play in college at Georgia Southern.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Mountain Valley Athletic 1A/2A Conference

  1. West Wilkes; 2. Ashe County; 3. Wilkes Central; 4. Alleghany; 5. North Wilkes; 6. Elkin; 7. East Wilkes; 8. Starmount.

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

  1. Freedom; 2. Watauga; 3. Hickory; 4. McDowell; 5. South Caldwell; 6. Alexander Central; 7. St. Stephens.

Rocky River Conference

  1. Forest Hills; 2. Mount Pleasant; 3. West Stanly; 4. Anson County; 5. Montgomery Central; 6. Central Academy.

Sandhills’ Athletic Conference 4A (SAC 4A)

  1. Pinecrest; 2. Lumberton; 3. 71st High School; 4. Jack Britt; 5. Richmond Senior; 6. Hoke County; 7. Scotland County; 8. Purnell Swett.

Western Highlands’ 1A/2A Conference

  1. Mountain Heritage; 2. Avery County; 3. Mitchell; 4. Madison; 5. Owen; 6. Polk County.

ROWAN COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATCH

Carson: The Cougars return four starters from a 27-win team and get junior Carleigh Perry back from injury. Carson boasts three all-North Piedmont conference (NPC) guards in Maci Cooper (9 ppg), Colbie Perry (12 ppg) and Ellie Wilhelm (8 ppg), who will dictate pace and tempo and give the Cougars a great chance to repeat as league champions and make another deep playoff run (3A state quarterfinalist last year).

Salisbury: The Hornets return three starters from a 25-win team that advanced to the 2A state quarterfinals. Salisbury will lean on its backcourt in senior Anayia Fulson (12 ppg) and sophomore Rachel McCullough (11 ppg) to lead the way to defending its Central Carolinas’ conference title and more into postseason.

West Rowan: The Falcons have won 40 games in the past two years, and with four senior starters back in Whitley Arnott (11 rpg), Gabby Blabon (6 ppg), Taylor Poole (8 ppg) and Abigail Wilson (22 ppg), West Rowan has the experience and talent to contend for the NPC title and go deep into the 3A state playoffs.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hannah Freeman, North Rowan: The 5-foot-8 sophomore all-conference (Yadkin Valley 1A) guard had a breakout freshman season averaging 17 points per game.

Anayia Fulson, Salisbury: The 5-foot-8 all-Central Carolinas conference guard (12 ppg) will play a lead role on a Salisbury team that has averaged 22 wins per seasons over the last three years.

Adalie Harrison, East Rowan: The 5-foot-3 senior all-NPC point guard (11 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg) is back to lead a much improved Mustangs’ team that has the experience to return to the playoffs for a 2nd straight season.

Carleigh/Colbie Perry, Carson: The Perry sisters (both juniors) combined to average 21 points per game last year, and should be even more productive on a veteran team.

Abigail Wilson, West Rowan: The 5-foot-11 senior forward is a big play waiting to happen, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds per game.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Kyla Bryant, Salisbury: The 5-foot-8 freshman point guard should have an immediate impact for the Hornets, according to Salisbury coach Lakai Brice.

Maci Cooper/Ellie Wilhelm, Carson: The Cougars’ all-NPC backcourt duo averaged a combined 17 points per game last year and should find even more room to operate with the Perry sisters in the lineup.

Taylor Poole, West Rowan: The 5-foot-2 point guard (8 ppg, 5 apg) is a major playmaker for the Falcons.

Mary Spry, East Rowan: The 6-foot sophomore (9 ppg, 9 rpg) nearly averaged a double-double as a freshman and should be even better this year.

Natavia Taburn, North Rowan: The 5-foot-2 junior all-conference (Yadkin Valley 1A) point guard (11 ppg) teams with Freeman to give the Cavaliers a potent backcourt.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Hannah Freeman, North Rowan, 5-8, So.

  • Anayia Fulson, Salisbury, 5-8, Sr.

  • Carleigh Perry, Carson, Jr.

  • Colbie Perry, Carson, 5-8, Jr.

  • Abigail Wilson, West Rowan, 5-11, Sr., F

NOTES

  • East Rowan was much improved at 14-13 last year, making the playoffs after going 9-40 the previous two seasons (2016-18), and look to carry that momentum with four starters back in the lineup, including three seniors.

  • South Rowan coach Alex Allen takes over a Raiders’ program that is 52-51 over the last four years, and must replace one of the state’s best players in Janiyah Downs (32 ppg, 13 rpg), who graduated.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Central Carolinas’ Conference (CCC)

  1. Salisbury; 2. Ledford; 3. East Davidson; 4. West Davidson; 5. North Rowan; 6. South Rowan; 7. Lexington; 8. Thomasville; 9. Oak Grove; 10. Central Davidson.

North Piedmont Conference (NPC)

  1. Carson; 2. West Rowan; 3. East Rowan; 4. Statesville; 5. North Iredell; 6. South Iredell.

Yadkin Valley 1A Conference

1. Gray Stone Day; 2. Chatham Central; 3. North Rowan; 4. North Stanly; 5. Albemarle; 6. North Moore; 7. Uwharrie Charter; 8. South Stanly; 9. South Davidson.

STANLY COUNTY

TEAMS TO WATCH

Albemarle: The Bulldogs are 49-10 in the last two years, including 26-3 last year. But after losing four players to college basketball, Albemarle will have to reload to keep winning consistently. It will build around senior guards Shada Wall (12 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 spg) and Krystin McLendon (7 ppg) as the Bulldogs lean on a senior-heavy team to defend their Yadkin Valley 1A conference title.

Gray Stone Day: The Knights have won 107 games in the last five years, including a 21-7 record a year ago. This season, Gray Stone Day will look to seniors Seccora Medley and Danielle Werts to help the Knights stay in the upper echelon of the Yadkin Valley 1A Conference and provide the experience to make a playoff run.

West Stanly: The Colts were up and down at 14-14 last year. But this year, West Stanly returns three senior starters in Carmen Bishop, Raelee Furr and Dani Moss, giving Coach Chad Horn the experience to contend in the Rocky River conference.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Raelee Furr, West Stanly: The 5-foot-9 senior forward/center will have to step up her game for West Stanly to move up the Rocky River conference standings.

Seccora Medley/Danielle Werts, Gray Stone Day: The Knights senior duo gives Gray Stone Day one of the best inside/outside duos in the Yadkin Valley 1A conference on a team that used to winning.

Shada Wall, Albemarle: The 5-foot-3 senior guard (12 ppg, 4 spg) has big shoes to fill from a team that lost four college basketball players from last year, but has the talent to be “an all-state” performer, according to Albemarle coach Eric Davis.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Carmen Bishop/Dani Moss, West Stanly: The Colts’ senior backcourt duo will have to be more productive for West Stanly to be serious, Rocky River conference contenders.

Jacy Noble, South Stanly: The sophomore guard (6 ppg, 2 spg) will play a bigger role for South Stanly with backcourt mate, classmate, Kalea LeGrande.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Raelee Furr, West Stanly, 5-9, Sr.

  • Krystin McLendon, Albemarle, 5-3, Sr.

  • Seccora Medley, Gray Stone Day, 5-11, Sr.

  • Shada Wall, Albemarle, 5-3, Sr.

  • Danielle Werts, Gray Stone Day, 5-7, Sr.

NOTES

  • North Stanly is 16-32 in the last two years, the first time the Comets have had back-to-back losing seasons in more than a decade. This year, North Stanly coach, Greg Speight, and company look to get back on a winning track.

  • South Stanly also hopes to turn things around after a 22 wins in the last three years combined, but it won’t be easy with just two returning starters that are both sophomores.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Rocky River Conference

  1. Forest Hills; 2. Mount Pleasant; 3. West Stanly; 4. Anson County; 5. Central Montgomery; 6. Central Academy.

Yadkin Valley 1A Conference

  1. Gray Stone Day; 2. Chatham Central; 3. North Rowan; 4. Albemarle; 5. North Stanly; 6. North Moore; 7. Uwharrie Charter; 8. South Stanly; 9. South Davidson.

Note: preseason information wasn’t complete for schools in Gaston, Rutherford Counties and Upper State South Carolina. These will be added when information is provided.

UNION COUNTY

Cuthbertson: The Cavaliers were painfully close to winning a 3A state championship as the runner-up to Southeast Guilford. But Cuthbertson has plenty of talent in junior Maddie Dillinger (14 ppg) and seniors Lillian Anderson (8 ppg) and Lauryn Hardiman (11 ppg) back to help the Cavaliers make another title run. Cuthbertson’s goal from day one will be to get back to the 3A state title game and end this season with a victory.

Weddington: The Warriors have a veteran team with three starters back – Miranda Barron (11 ppg), Emily Cunningham (10 rpg), Karrah Katzbach (17 ppg) – from a 17-win team a year ago. Weddington will also get a boast from their middle school team that was undefeated, giving them a shot to contend in the SCC and be a dangerous playoff team with an elite backcourt (Barron, Cunningham, Katzbach) that can take over a game.

Union Academy: The Cardinals will look to junior Savanna Brooks (15 ppg), senior C.C. Coppin (6 ppg) and Monroe transfer Karynton Clark (6 ppg) to help Union Academy win their third straight conference title. If Union Academy (51-6 in the last years) can get consistent production inside, they have a team capable of making another playoff run (1A state quarterfinalist last year).

Forest Hills: The Yellow Jackets return the core of a team that won 17-games and Rocky River conference title last year. Junior, Hope Benson (11.8 ppg) and the senior trio of Tesha Brewer (7 ppg, 4 spg), Tiana Sloan (9 ppg) and Ahjiyah Sullivant (7 ppg) gives Coach Mark Richardson a lineup that could repeat as league champions and be a tough playoff matchup with their wealth of experience.

Metrolina Christian: The Warriors return three starters in junior Emily Walters (13 ppg), sophomore Anna Phibbs (12 ppg) and freshman Lilly Reynolds (6 ppg) from a 14-win team a year ago, which should help them be improved this season. If the Warriors can get some help from younger players like freshman, Emma Phibbs, they should be right in the mix in too half of Metrolina Athletic conference (MAC) race and back into the playoffs.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hope Benson, Forest Hills: The 5-foot-11 junior center (11.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg) will need to be a double-double machine again for the Yellow Jackets to repeat at Rocky River conference champions.

Savanna Brooks, Union Academy: The 5-foot-9 junior guard is a major weapon (15 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 spg) all over the floor for the Cardinals.

Maddie Dillinger, Cuthbertson: The 6-foot junior forward can score from anywhere on the court (14 ppg, 7 rpg) and looks to help lead Cuthbertson to a 3A state title.

Kennedie Gaither, Parkwood: The 5-foot-7 senior point guard missed last year with an ACL injury, but should provide a major boast to the Parkwood lineup again this season.

Olivia Jordan, Piedmont: The Panthers’ 6-foot senior center (8 ppg, 7 rpg last year) will needs to even better for Piedmont to climb back in the upper half of the SCC and has some help with junior guards, Brooke Atwell and Ashley Carraway, also back in the lineup.

Karrah Katzbach, Weddington: The 5-foot-6 senior shooting guard will be one of the county’s top scorers (17 ppg) for a Weddington team look to make some noise in the SCC.

Anna Phibbs, Metrolina Christian: The 5-foot-10 sophomore forward averaged a double-double (12 ppg, 10 rpg) last year as a freshman, and the All-MAC performer should be even more productive this season.

PLAYERS ON THE RISE

Tatum Bowen/Isabella Sarcoma/Hannah Tse, Weddington: All three Warriors’ freshman should make an immediate impact after help the Weddington Middle School team to an undefeated season last year.

Karynton Clark, Union Academy: The 5-foot-3 junior point guard, Monroe transfer (6 ppg) should help Cardinals reload their lineup after losing three starters from a 27-win team.

Amarachi Emezie, Marvin Ridge: The 6-foot-2 senior center will have to step into a bigger role if the Mavericks are going to be a factor in the upper half of the SCC standings.

Holly Johnson, Arborbrook Christian: The 5-foot-10 senior forward (12 ppg, 8 rpg) will have to step her game up as the only starter back from a 30-win team a year ago, that was hard hit by graduation and transfers.

Breaisha Massey/Kenlynn Walker/Kaire Wideman, Porter Ridge: The Pirates’ three senior starters will have to step up if the Pirates are going to be an improved team this year after winning just nine games in the last two seasons.

TaNyha Peoples, Sun Valley: The 5-foot-4, Sun Valley guard (8 ppg) will have to take on a lead role to help the Spartans climb out of the bottom of the SCC standings.

Emma Phibbs, Metrolina Christian: The 5-foot-8 freshman forward looks to add instant offense after averaging 21 points per game last year for Grace Academy.

Zaria White, Monroe: The 5-foot-10 sophomore forward/center (4 ppg, 5 rpg) must play a big role on Redhawks’ team that lost most of their roster from a year ago.

PRESEASON ALL-COUNTY TEAM

  • Hope Benson, Forest Hills, 5-11, Jr.

  • Savanna Brooks, Union Academy, 5-9, Jr.

  • Maddie Dillinger, Cuthbertson, 6-0, Jr.

  • Kennedie Gaither, Parkwood, 5-7, Sr.

  • Karrah Katzbach, Weddington, 5-6, Sr.

NOTES

  • Monroe has had only one losing season in the last decade, but coach Leroy Osborne knows this year will be a challenge after losing nearly his entire roster to graduation (transfer).

  • Central Academy has struggled mightily of late going 9-88 in the last four years. But coach Kevin Allran led the Cougars to their most wins (4) last year since 2014-15 and that is something to build on with four starters back, led by sophomore guard Shannon Studer (12 ppg).

  • Porter Ridge is in a similar spot as 1st-year coach Angelia James hopes to get a Pirates’ team that returns all five starters going back in the right direction after going 9-58 in the last three years.

  • Sun Valley coach Paul Swartz also gets all five starters back to try and help the Spartans (3-21 last year) move up the SCC standings.

CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Charlotte Area Christian Schools’ Athletic Association

  1. Comenius; 2. Covenant Classical; 3. Arborbrook Christian; 4. Grace Academy.

Metrolina Athletic Conference

  1. Concord First Assembly; 2. Gaston Day; 3. Metrolina Christian; 4. Gaston Christian; 5. Hickory Grove; 6. SouthLake Christian; 7. Westminster Catawba; 8. Northside Christian.

Piedmont Athletic Conference 7, 1A (PAC 7, 1A)

  1. Union Academy; 2. Langtree Charter; 3. Mountain Island Charter; 4. Community School of Davidson; 5. Pine Lake Prep; 6. Bradford Prep; 7. Queens Grant; 8. Carolina International.

Rocky River Conference

  1. Forest Hills; 2. Mount Pleasant; 3. West Stanly; 4. Anson County; 5. Montgomery Central; 6. Central Academy.

Southern Carolinas’ Conference

  1. Cuthbertson; 2. Charlotte Catholic; 3. Weddington; 4. Piedmont; 5. Marvin Ridge; 6. Parkwood; 7. Monroe; 8. Sun Valley.

Southwestern 4A Conference

  1. Butler; 2. Hickory Ridge; 3. Rocky River; 4. Independence; 5. Myers Park; 6. Porter Ridge; 7. East Mecklenburg; 8. Garinger.

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