by Chris Hunt
This week, we introduce the 2010-11 Lake Norman-Area Super 7 Girls Basketball Rankings and crown our season-ending champions.
In the past, we have included teams from throughout Mecklenburg County. Starting this year, however, we’re narrowing our pool of teams to those in the Lake Norman area, which includes Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mountain Island and parts of Mooresville and Denver.
Here’s a rundown of how the voting went:
With a record of 25-4, the Hopewell Titans are the first girls basketball squad to be named the Lake Norman-Area Super 7 champions. Hopewell’s historic season was decorated with an abundance of school firsts, including the best winning percentage in school history. Then again, the Titans weren’t the only girls basketball team to reach new heights for their programs.
1. Hopewell Titans (25-4)
Earning the Super 7’s top honors is just one of the Titans’ many accomplishments this past season. Hopewell not only tied the school record for victories, set in 2005 with a 25-5 mark, it also reached the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A regional tournament for the first time in school history.
If that’s not enough, the Titans also boast the I-MECK 4A conference Player of the Year in Hannah Early – for the second time in two seasons – and two all-conference selections in Sharee’ Boyd (second time) and Hunter Meakin.
And still there’s more.
Last season, the Titans shared the league’s regular-season championship, but a veteran squad with a stingy defense returned this year to claim the title outright. Three Titans – Early, Boyd and Katherine Summerville – averaged at least two steals per contest. As a team, Hopewell’s defense was good for 11.6 steals and 4.7 blocks per game. The result? The Titans locked down opponents to just 38.4 points per outing.
On offense, the Titans were everywhere, scoring baskets in different ways each night. Hopewell’s leading scorers Early (15.4 points per game) and Boyd (11.4) slashed defenses in transition or halfcourt sets for baskets. Center TJ Burks (7.1 points) was another powerful force down low, but when opponents collapsed the lane, the Titans converted on 41 percent of their 3-pointers, led by Meakin, who connected on 66 of the team’s 92 attempts from behind the arc.
The Titans’ biggest obstacle was regional finalist Mallard Creek, a conference rival that handed Hopewell three of its four losses. A six-point loss to Southwest Guilford ended Hopewell’s state championship hopes in the Western Regional semifinals, but that couldn’t keep the Titans from winning the Lake Norman-Area Super 7 title.
2. Hough Huskies (18-10)
If the Huskies return the same players from this year’s squad, they could be serious contenders for the top spot in next year’s final Super 7 rankings. The first-year program started four freshmen and a sophomore but still finished third in the I-MECK 4A and won the first playoff game in school history, a 65-56 victory over West Meck.
Hough was the Lake Norman area’s biggest surprise, winning its first four games of the season, including victories over more established programs Providence and Olympic. And unlike most inexperienced squads that stumble often after immediate success, the tough-minded Huskies’ only head-scratching performance was a 50-47 loss to Mooresville, a team that finished sixth in the I-MECK. Most of the time, the Huskies played more like relaxed veterans than inexperienced puppies.
Hough has plenty to build around, starting with leading scorer Anna Diggs, the Huskies’ freshman point guard who earned an all-conference nod this winter. So far, Diggs (15.5 points per game) is the only Husky to receive such an honor, but that shouldn’t last long. Sophomore Brandi Arey (10 points per game), and freshmen Julia Brown (8.1 points, five rebounds), Kelsey Dean (6.9 points) and Courtney Carroll could have something to say about that.
3. West Mecklenburg Hawks (20-7)
First-year coach Antoine Avinger didn’t waste any time getting acclimated to the MEGA 7 3A/4A conference, as the Hawks opened the season by winning their first nine contests. They also earned the league’s No. 1 seed for the Class 4A state playoffs.
Unfortunately, the Hawks were eliminated in the first round by Hough, but that didn’t put a damper on their season.
Avinger preached balance, and his squad epitomized that the entire season. Rajsha Blackmon led the team in scoring (19.9 points per game), Keanna Bowe was tops in rebounding (9.8) and blocks (2.5), Toni Thorne was the leader in steals (4.5) and Sharnesha Brently led the way in assists (three).
4. Lake Norman Charter Knights (19-5)
This season, Lake Norman Charter won its second consecutive Piedmont Athletic Conference regular-season championship with a sterling 10-0 league mark and, once again, captured the PAC tournament title.
But Lake Norman Charter still has some work to do before it can call itself one of the elite programs in the Lake Norman area. For the second consecutive season, the Knights fell one game shy of the 20-victory mark and lost in the first round of the Class 1A state playoffs. Losing by double digits to Class 4A Hough on Dec. 18 knocked it down a notch on the Super 7 rankings ladder.
Next season, 20 victories could be even tougher for Lake Norman Charter when it joins the 1A/2A South Piedmont Conference; the Knights were 2-4 against their competition from the SPC. Then again, they should be ready to meet the challenge. Five starters return for another season, including junior floor general Jamie Williams, who led the team with 13.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 steals per game. Another year could do wonders for freshman center Ezzine Mbamalu, who grew up quickly to top the Knights with 12.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. Forward Alex Busch was another impact freshman who averaged eight points and 4.9 rebounds.
5. SouthLake Christian Eagles (22-8)
This season, the Eagles won more games than any team in school history since SouthLake joined the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association. Next season, they could be even better with the return of two high-scoring juniors, 6-foot-3 center Brianne Mack and sweet-shooting guard Kourtney Hailey.
Only a second-place finish behind Metrolina Athletic Conference winner Concord First Assembly and a second-round exit in the NCISAA 2A state tournament kept the Eagles from climbing higher in the Super 7 rankings. The Eagles also dropped a home game to Lake Norman Charter this season, 51-34.
6. Lake Norman Wildcats (14-11)
It was a down year for the mighty Lake Norman girls program, which earned a share of the 2009-10 I-MECK regular-season title and advanced to last year’s regional semifinals. While post players Landyn Manion and Marrissa Riley returned for another stellar season, with both averaging double figures this winter, a depleted backcourt – due to injuries, graduation and transfers – was too much to overcome for first-year Lake Norman coach Lori Reavis’ squad.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Wildcats, however; they did qualify for the playoffs with a 52-45 victory in their season-finale win over crosstown rival Mooresville High. It also swept its two-game series with North Meck to finish sixth in the Super 7 rankings.
7. North Mecklenburg Vikings (15-12)
North Meck secured 15 victories and a state playoff berth for the second consecutive season under coach Jennifer Baker. The Vikings leaned heavily on senior leadership from captains Tatum McKee, Kayla Lemke, Sam Garst and Erin Lenhert. McKee, a speedy scorer, led the team with 15.3 points and 3.7 steals per contest to become an all-conference selection. Lemke also averaged double figures in points. But just like last season, North Meck couldn’t capitalize with a win in the postseason.