by Chris Hunt
After a near-miss the night before in a one-point loss to Myers Park, the Hough boys basketball team earned its first win against Lake Norman Charter on Dec. 8.
The Huskies needed overtime to get the job done at home, relying on two free throws from sophomore Drexler Clark in the final second to win 58-56. Clark also hit a big 3-pointer, scoring all five of the Huskies’ extra-period points.
Husky coach Justin Batts doesn’t have a senior on his roster, but he was quick to point out that the young squad plays with heart. The Huskies followed their first win in six contests with a two-game winning streak, blowing out Catawba Bandys, 68-35, on Dec. 10.
“We battled and came out on the losing end (to Myers Park), but I’m proud of these guys for coming back and doing the same thing two nights in a row,” said Batts. “Those were big foul shots by Drex to get that two-point lead. To knock those free throws down at the end shows a lot of things that don’t happen with most 10th-graders.”
• Nick Bernado and Nick Daddio played on Lake Norman Charter’s basketball team last winter before transferring to Hough this summer. Bernado played well, scoring 17 points, and was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line. Daddio chipped in a basket in the fourth quarter. Bernado said he was ready to go well before tip-off.
“It’s a priceless feeling to beat my old team, and I’m still taking it in,” said Bernado. “I knew they were going to come out with intensity because they really wanted to win, too. I told my teammates not to take them lightly because they are a small school.”
Clark scored a game-high 16 points, while freshman Jaqueaz Jackson chipped in 14 points, including four 3-pointers. The Knights’ leading scorer this season, Angelo Davis (9.8 points per game) had 14 points. Amr Saleh had 11 points and Michael Dorsainvil added eight.
Lake Norman Christian boys improve
The Lake Norman Christian boys have five wins in its first seven games of its inaugural season of varsity basketball, but it’s the two losses to an athletic Statesville Christian squad that tell the story of the Storm’s improvement this season.
Coach Rodney Monroe said his team has shown maturity between the two contests that played on Nov. 15 and Dec. 6. The Storm lost their first game in Statesville by more than 20 points but held the lead throughout most of a 57-54 loss in Huntersville.
“We still have a very young team,” Monroe said. “We have ninth- and 10th-graders playing varsity teams. I’m very proud of these guys. We (had) … a real chance to win the second game. They grew up quickly, and we took care of the basketball.”
With a schedule featuring varsity and JV teams, Lake Norman Christian already has wins over Queen’s Grant’s JV, Piedmont Charter, University Christian and Arborbrook Christian. Since then, they’ve dropped games to Charlotte Country Day’s JV, 69-14, and Pine Lake Prep, 51-44.
The Storm hope to return to their winning ways in a holiday tournament on Dec. 20 against teams such as United Faith, Queens Grant and Oak Ridge.
Hough girls win five of first six
On Dec. 8, the Hough girls defeated Lake Norman Charter, 51-34, in a game that showcased two of the top point guards in the Lake Norman area: Hough’s Anna Diggs and Lake Norman Charter’s Jamie Williams.
Diggs scored a game-high 25 points, connecting on six 3-pointers. Williams scored a team-high 14 points on an injured ankle, but it was Hough’s supporting cast that was the difference. Both teams are young, but the Husky players grew up a cohesive unit playing on the same AAU squad in middle school.
“They are young, but they have experience,” said Lake Norman coach Bobby Williams. “Unfortunately for us, Anna had a better supporting cast. They have a good future to look forward to, and they have a program that’s up and coming.”
The Huskies have victories over Mint Hill Rocky River, Wadesboro Anson, Providence and Olympic. But I-MECK 4A conference play isn’t expected to go as smoothly for the first-year Huskies. Hough challenged conference favorite Hopewell but lost, 29-26. It was the Huskies’ second consecutive loss. They’re now 5-3, 0-1 in the I-MECK 4A.
“Experience will be the difference for us in conference play,” said Tate. “We are the most inexperienced team in the conference because we are just starting four freshmen and one sophomore. I am still very proud of them, but if you look at our team, those players on any other team are junior varsity players. I have to keep that in perspective when I am dealing with them. As long as they are open-minded and listen to what I’m trying to get across to them, I think we will be OK.”
• Last season, Lake Norman Charter started 5-1 and won the Piedmont Athletic Conference championship. This year, they Knights are 4-3. The reason: a tougher non-conference schedule.
“We beefed up the non-conference schedule because next year we are trying to get into the Southern Piedmont, which is East Lincoln, Cherryville and all them,” coach Bobby Williams said. “We want to add a bunch of those schools on the schedule this year to show them what we’ve got and see what they got. We hope they’ll put us in that conference which will be a good place for us.”
So far, the Knights have done well in single-digit losses to those teams. Lake Norman Charter lost to Highland Tech, 38-31, on Nov. 22 and East Lincoln, 40-36. on Dec. 1. The Knights, however, are off to a 2-0 mark in the PAC. Lake Norman Charter won easily against Queen’s Grant and Lincoln Charter and also has wins over Class 3A Concord Cox Mill, 46-32, and Pine Lake Prep, 37-7.
• Freshman center Ezzine Mbamalu could grow into a nice player for the Knights. The 6-foot-2 Knight grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked five shots against Hough. She’s adjusted well to varsity play on the defensive end, averaging 12.1 rebounds and more than two blocks per game. She’s also scoring 7.1 points per game but is still growing as an offensive player.
“She’s got a lot of work to do, but you can’t teach height,” said Williams. “She still catches the ball high and likes to bring it down before she gets rid of it. She’s got to get stronger and as a freshman, she’s never been in a weight room, never been coached to protect the ball. In middle school they told her to hold the ball up (above her head) but she can’t do that anymore because girls are as tall as she is.”