CORNELIUS – High school basketball teams stayed sharp with various tournaments and games during the school winter break. They’ll next jump into the heart of their conference schedule.
Here’s a glimpse at the area’s top teams:
• North Mecklenburg boys (11-1) – The Vikings won the R&L Holiday Classic by handing Lake Norman its first loss, 65-55 in the championship game Dec. 30. North Meck is 2-1 and in second place in the MECKA 4A conference, a game behind Hough and West Charlotte.
C.J. Bryce, a transfer from Hopewell, scored 21 points in the title game and was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Coach Duane Lewis’s Vikings are an athletic bunch who should remain in contention all season. They’re deep and fast, which often makes for high-scoring, exciting basketball.
• Hough boys (9-3) – The Huskies are 3-0 in the MECKA 4A conference and tied with West Charlotte for the lead. They went 1-2 against top-notch competition at the Beach Ball Classic over the holidays, which should help in the second half of the season. Six of last season’s top eight players are back.
Theo Mack (9.0 scoring average) directs things at point guard, his first season at the position. Hough’s strength is inside, where 6-foot-10 Tucker Thompson and 6-8 Luke Maye are an impressive scoring/rebounding/shooting duo. Maye is averaging 20.3 points and 15.5 rebounds. Thompson averages 12.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.
“Tucker is playing well, too,” Hough coach Justin Batts said. “He is shooting a high percentage from the floor and rebounding the ball well. He and Luke play really well together passing the ball high/low. Luke is having a more dominant rebounding year than last and playing much high-level competition than last year. He has an improved post game and is a real inside-out threat.”
“Once our guys truly settle into their new positions, we are going to be very tough, and we have a very special group that wants to compete every day in practice to continue to get better.”
• North Mecklenburg girls (8-5) – The key number for the Vikings is their 3-0 record in the MECKA 4A conference, which gives them a one-game lead in the early going. North Meck has played a tough schedule, with a three-point loss to Lake Norman Charter (10-1) and a loss to nationally ranked Myers Park (12-1).
Expect the Vikings to battle for the conference championship.
• Hopewell girls (10-2) – The Titans won their first eight games and are 2-1 in MECKA 4A conference competition. They advanced to the championship game of the East Lincoln winter jam, but lost 61-55 to Lake Norman Charter.
Hopewell is led by seniors Mariah Washington (12.2 scoring average and 6.6 rebounds) and Bryanna Curry (10.6 points), who’re both shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Sophomore Ineesha Hankerson is averaging a team-leading 6.8 rebounds.
• Lake Norman Charter girls (10-1) – The Knights are 4-0 and atop the Big South 3A/4A conference. They won the East Lincoln Winter Jam tournament and have balance in guard/forward Alex Busch (16.7 points, 5.8 rebounds), center Ezinne Mbamalu (16.2 points, 15.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocked shots), freshman Hannah Gaskins (8.5 points, 5.9 rebounds) and Sierra Wiley (4.8 assists).
The Knights scored a season-high 82 points in a Jan. 3 home victory against Gastonia Huss.
• Davidson Day – The boys’ team is 7-3 and the girls are 6-2. Davidson Day’s boys had a 70-35 romp against Charlotte Country Day during the winter break. The girls’ squad is led by freshman Maya Caldwell, who was an all-state player as a freshman last season.
• SouthLake Christian boys (6-5) – The overall record isn't great, but coach Rodney Monroe's team has balanced scoring in its favor. Four Eagles average between eight and 12 points – Jalen Sanders (11.5), Hayden Goins (10.5), Cody Cox (8.8) and Andrew Howard (8.6). That variety should help as the Eagles battle for a postseason spot.