This week, we introduce the 2010-11 Lake Norman-Area Super 7 Boys Basketball Rankings and crown our season-ending champion.
In the past, we have included teams 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, Mountain Island and parts of Mooresville and Denver.
Here’s a breakdown of how the voting went:
1. North Mecklenburg Vikings (22-6)
After reshuffling its roster during the off-season, little was expected of the Vikings in 2010-11. It was assumed that North Meck lacked the height and college-level talent to compete at the same standard as years past.
Someone must have forgotten to remind the Vikings of their limitations.
North Meck’s 2010-11 squad shocked naysayers by winning 22 games and finishing second behind I-MECK 4A conference champion West Charlotte, a team that will play Millbrook for the state championship on Saturday, March 12. The pinnacle of the Vikings’ season was a 60-57 victory over West Charlotte, a game decided by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Karl Barkley. The senior forward hit another 3-point dagger to beat Mooresville, 69-68, the following night. The Vikings even survived a three-week stretch without leading scorer Carlin Bremner, who injured his ankle during a holiday tournament.
In the end, a strong senior class that included Barkley, Bremner, 3-point marksman Kenny Tucker and Jermaine Forte was determined to make a state playoff run. Rising stars Shivaughn Wiggins (junior), Tahji Watts (sophomore) and Rashaan Brown (sophomore) also played big roles on a team that was forced to pressure defensively and score in transition as often as possible.
North Meck’s season ended with a loss to highly regarded Olympic in the second round of the 4A state playoffs, but that didn’t discourage Vikings coach Duane Lewis after a spectacular bounce-back season. Lewis said his team’s character made this one of the most enjoyable experiences since winning the state title in 2005.
That same team spirit also made the Vikings Super 7 champions.
2. Mooresville Blue Devils (18-9)
The Blue Devils had an enviable starting five this season. Mooresville boasted an elite, blue-chip athlete in leading scorer Shawn Lester (17.9 points per game), two heady, athletic guards with range in Isaiah Johnson (11.2) and Kendrick Johnson (9.9) and a pair of nasty, glass-cleaning big men in Dre Howell and Raphael Montgomery.
So how does a team this talented with two wins in three games against North Mecklenburg finish second in the Super 7 rankings?
Losses to Vance (twice) and Hopewell dropped the Blue Devils to fourth place in the I-MECK regular-season standings. Inconsistency was another factor. On some nights, Mooresville appeared unbeatable, as players flew across the court at breakneck speed. But other nights, the Blue Devils were slow out of the gate and spent most their time trying to erase a deficit.
In the end, losses to top-tier teams West Charlotte (three times including the conference finals) and Olympic in the first round of the state playoffs, short-changed an otherwise memorable campaign.
The good news is the Blue Devils are poised for another run. Mooresville loses seniors Isaiah Johnson and versatile forward Pat O’Brien, but Lester returns for his senior season. He’ll have classmates Kendrick Johnson, sophomore Howell and freshman Montgomery back to run the program’s high-octane style of play.
3. West Mecklenburg (17-10)
The Hawks got off to a bit of a rough start this season, losing five of their first eight games. That wasn’t exactly a good omen for a squad that many felt could be one of the best in the county, if not the state.
Coach Donald Kirby’s team, however, regained its composure and finished the season impressively, rallying to earn the MEGA 7 3A/4A conference’s No. 2 seed in the Class 4A state tournament. The Hawks even won a pair of playoff games, topping Marion’s McDowell High and league foe Hopewell to advance to the sectional finals. Unfortunately for West Meck, that’s where it met West Charlotte, and the Hawks went down by 13 points.
West Meck was fun to watch this season, as Charlotte 49ers signee Terrance Williams lived up to his pre-season hype, and West Charlotte transfer Julius Hamilton – all 6 foot 2, 260 pounds of him – took pressure off his talented teammate.
4. Hopewell Titans (12-13)
The odds were stacked against the Titans this season. After losing their top six players who competed on back-to-back conference championship teams, no one would have blinked if the Titans mailed it in on first-year coach Damon Bost. An off-season injury to 6-foot-7 center Elliot Pope and an inexperienced starting lineup contributed to a rough start, in which Hopewell won just five out of their first 15 games. A 2-6 start to the I-MECK schedule didn’t help matters, either.
But Bost, a longtime Titans assistant, proved to be quite savvy, and Pope bounced back to lead the team in scoring and rebounding. With fellow senior Michael Russell also hitting his stride late in the season, Hopewell won five of its final six games to claim the fifth and final I-MECK playoff bid.
What followed was even more remarkable. In the conference tournament, Russell hit a 3-point shot to defeat third-place Vance for the second time in a week, and the Titans smashed Sun Valley, 61-41, in the first round of the state playoffs to complete a comeback season and charge up the Super 7 rankings.
5. Lake Norman Wildcats (10-14)
What a difference a year makes. This time last season, the Wildcats were the envy of the state after winning the 4A championship. But graduation was unkind to Lake Norman, which lost four of its five starters from that team, including Mercer University recruits Paul Larsen and Kevin Canevari. Guard Brian Whalen was the only starter to return. The Wildcats didn’t defend their title, but they still finished among the top five of the Super 7 rankings.
6. Hough Huskies (5-20)
The Hough Huskies didn’t challenge for the conference title in their first season, but few first-year programs do. Still, a 58-56 overtime victory over Lake Norman Charter on Dec. 8 – the program’s first win in school history – kept the Huskies out of the Super 7 basement.
The Huskies played their first season without a senior class, so they could challenge for a higher spot next season. If that’s the case, the program’s building blocks – Nick Bernardo, Drexler Clark, Ty Decker and Jaqueaz Jackson – will need to continue to improve this off-season.
7. Lake Norman Charter Knights (9-11)
Heavy turnover challenged the Knights in their second season of varsity basketball. Lake Norman Charter lost key contributors such as point guard Shivaughn Wiggins to North Meck and guards Nick Bernardo and Nick Daddio to Hough. But they still managed to tie Covenant Classical for second place in the Piedmont Athletic Conference and earn a play-in game for the Class 1A state tournament. The season was truly a team effort for the Knights, as six players averaged more than five points per game but not above 7.4 points a contest.