HUNTERSVILLE – After an uncharacteristic stumble last season, the Hopewell High girls’ basketball team has returned to its status as a contender.
The Titans are 15-3 and tied for the MECKA 4A conference lead with rival Hough. Hopewell had a key 61-48 victory against North Mecklenburg on Jan. 31.
“The girls are playing together,” Hopewell coach Tyrelle Anderson said. “We’re a pretty deep team. We use 10-12 players, so whoever has the ball, we’re tough to defend sometimes. We have a good mix of experienced and inexperienced players. That’s help keep all of them honest at practice.”
The depth means the Titans must battle for playing time, which prevents loafing and complacency. That hasn’t been an issue as Hopewell is wiping away memories of last season’s 11-14 record. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, because the team battled injuries to key players and lost several close games.
“I’m proud of that team because they did work,” Anderson said. “This year’s just gone a lot better for us.”
The seeds for this season's success began sprouting during the summer. Hopewell went 13-2 during games at the Charlotte 49ers team camp and at the North Mecklenburg Jamboree. The Titans were 8-0 at the North Meck event, including six victories by 10 or more points.
Early this season, they won big (81-60 score) against Lake Norman Charter, a state-ranked Class 2A team.
Anderson, in his second season as head coach, is no stranger to Hopewell. He was an assistant the six years before that and helped the Titans win three straight conference titles (and a sectional championship) from 2009 to 2012. Hopewell had records of 23-5, 25-4 and 19-9 in that span.
This year’s squad is led by seniors Mariah Washington and Bryanna Curry, as well as sophomore Ineesha Hankerson. Washington leads the Titans in scoring (11.6 average), rebounding (6.4) and steals (2.8). She’s shooting 49 percent from the field.
Curry averages 8.7 points and 2.5 steals. Hankerson, an inside threat, averages 8.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and leads Hopewell with 26 blocked shots. She’s shooting 50 percent from the field.
Hopewell also has been getting solid contributions from Sydney Samuels, Megan Sanders, Katie Dillon, Shaniah Haynes, Erin Thames, Tanesha Scott and Rhema Francis.
The spread-out scoring is a benefit, but Anderson preaches defense.
“That’s what we do,” he said. “We defend.”
Hopewell is locked in a four-team battle for the conference lead. Hopewell and Hough (on a nine-game winning streak) are tied for first with 7-2 records. Close behind is North Mecklenburg and Concord Robinson with 6-3 marks. They’ll all play each other in the next couple of weeks, which means leap-frogging in the standings will continue.
It also means there are no easy opponents, which has been the norm the past few seasons.
“It’s a tough conference,” Anderson said. “The girls know each other. A lot of them play AAU together and with social media they call keep in touch.”
Anderson said Hopewell plays well when it plays unselfishly. That’s been happening a lot lately.
“We need to keep sharing the basketball,” he said. “And we need to make layups. But we have offensive players and when they share the ball, it keeps everyone involved. Sometimes younger players, if they miss a shot or two, they’ll let it affect them on the defensive end.”
“But we’re rebounding well. Our seniors are stepping up. I think they realize as the season winds down that it’s their last go-round. I’m pleased with the way they’ve played.”
Hopewell will finish the regular season with home conference games against Concord Robinson (Feb. 7) and Vance (Feb. 11), a road conference game against Kannapolis Brown (Feb. 13) and a road game against nationally ranked Myers Park.