by Chris Hunt
The Hopewell girls basketball team broke a three-game losing streak to Mallard Creek with a thrilling 50-47 victory at home on Feb. 4. That, however, was one of the many storylines in a game that should go a long way toward deciding the I-MECK 4A conference championship.
Even Hopewell coach Gary Richmond had to admit the Titans needed to step up and beat Mallard Creek; not just to take control of the conference race but also to prove something to themselves. The physical Mavericks claimed two impressive wins over the Titans this season – first at the Bojangles’ Shootout (51-46) on Dec. 29 and again at Mallard Creek on Jan. 7 (60-52). They were the talented Titans’ only two losses of the season.
“We had to prove to ourselves that we could beat Mallard Creek,” said Richmond. “Our players didn’t respond to (Mallard Creek’s challenge) in the past, but this time we didn’t get down on ourselves.”
Hopewell’s win put it a game ahead of Mallard Creek at the top of the standings with two contests remaining in the regular season. To secure the I-MECK title and a No. 1 seed for the 4A state playoffs, Hopewell (18-2, 11-1 in the league) had to defeat last-place Vance on Feb. 8 and rival North Mecklenburg on Thursday, Feb. 10.
Forward Hannah Early leads the Titans with 15.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Sharee’ Boyd is chipping in 11.6 ppg and 6.3 rpg.