by Chris Hunt
Hopewell girls basketball coach Gary Richmond hopes he’s found the turning point of the 2010-11 season.
While his team’s winning record didn’t reflect it, Richmond wasn’t exactly happy with the Titans’ performance early in the year. But after Hopewell escaped with a 57-51 victory over crosstown rival North Meck, the Titans have pummeled their competition, winning their last five games by an average of 32 points per contest.
During that stretch, Hopewell held conference rivals Vance, West Charlotte, Hough, Lake Norman and Mooresville to less than 35 points.
“Defense has been the difference,” said Richmond. “I think early, we were trying to outscore people. We lost our defensive intensity. But this winning streak hasn’t been us outscoring people; we’ve just been stopping people defensively. We haven’t had a game closer than 24 points.”
A 63-33 win at Mooresville on Feb. 1 was the Titans’ sixth consecutive victory, improving their record to 17-2, 10-1. The last time Hopewell lost was Jan. 7 to Mallard Creek.
The teams share first place and Hopewell hosts the rematch on Friday, Feb. 4. The winner will most likely win the regular-season title and earn a No. 1 seed for the state playoffs. The Titans have lost to the Mavericks twice this season, including a 51-46 decision in the Bojangles’ Shootout.
“(This) one’s for the championship,” said Richmond. “We’re going to need a balanced effort on offense with at least three players in double figures. It’s one of those games where the team who dictates their pace will win. They have a speed advantage, and we have size advantage down low.”