Last week was exam week for most teams in the state. While it was relatively quiet last Tuesday, there was plenty of action on Friday night and MLK Saturday. Teams for the most part will be moving entirely into conference play and conference standings will begin to take shape for conference and statewide seeding for playoffs.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the storylines from this past week.
Wake Forest wins 10th straight
After losing its first three contests, Wake Forest has won 10 straight games. As a matter of fact, a few weeks back when Wake Forest was 5-3, we pegged them as one of the sleeper teams in the Raleigh/Durham area, and it looks like we were spot on.
Wake Forest is now 10-3 for the season and enjoyed a signature conference win over conference favorite Wakefield by the score 69-63. Four of Wake Forest top scorers are underclassmen, which is great news for Coach Gregory Ackles. Leading the way is AJ Smalls (6-2 junior at 13.1 PPG), Dashaun Grant (6-0 junior, 11.7 PPG), Nigel Lucas (6-1 junior, 11.2 PPG), and Jaevian Alston (6-6 sophomore, 11.2 PPG). In addition, Jaden Valentine (6-0 senior) and Cem Oztamur (6-5 senior) are both averaging 8.5 PPG. Talk about balance.
In addition, Wake Forest is ranked No. 6 in our News and Observer Sweet 16 poll.
Jordan the team to beat in Conference 30
After suffering early season losses to The Burlington School and to Millbrook, Coach Derek Ross’ Jordan High School squad has quality wins over Panther Creek, Wakefield and crosstown rival Durham Riverside. Jordan is led by Clash Peters (6-9 junior, 12.7 PPG and 10.9 RPG for the double double), Jayan Walker (6-5 sophomore, 12.1 PPG), Dawson Edwards (5-10 senior, 9.9 PPG), Ronald Bridgers (6-4 junior, 9.6 PPG), and Walker Woodard (6-5 junior, 9.1 PPG). Jordan is currently ranked No. 3 in our News and Observer Sweet 16 poll and No. 18 in our statewide poll.
Chambers making its move
Coming into the season, Coach Brian Frasier knew he had the best talent on paper at the NCHSAA 4A level. That being said, games and championships are not won on paper, and Coach Frasier has challenged his team to one of the most difficult schedules in the state.
Starting the season, Chambers lost a heartbreaker to nationally ranked and non-association Combine Academy, 72-70, at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge. Other early season losses came to the hands of nationally ranked Dream City, out of Arizona, and an overtime loss on the road to NCISAA 2A power Northside Christian. Chambers rebounded nicely by securing wins over NCISAA powers Cannon and The Burlington School at the Phenom Holiday Classic.
At the John Wall, Chambers went 1-2, with losses coming to another nationally ranked team in Word of God before dropping a 60-58 game to Columbus High School out of Miami, Florida.
That being said, 2022 has gotten off to a quality start as Chambers now stands at 6-0 in conference play and signature road wins against North Mecklenburg, West Charlotte and Carmel Christian. Now, standing at 13-5, Coach Brian Frasier and Chambers are in the driver’s seat to capture the NCHSAA 3A/4A Conference 60 regular-season conference championship and currently ranked No. 4 in our statewide poll as one of the favorite teams to win the NCHSAA 4A championship.
Major turnaround for Gaston Christian
Gaston Christian started the season with a dismal 3-6 record and headed to the Phenom Holiday Classic with a monumental task of facing a monster schedule with the likes of Weddington, Ardrey Kell, Word of God and Moravian Prep.
Weddington and Ardrey Kell are two of the top teams in the NCHSAA 4A and Word of God and Moravian Prep are both non-association teams that are nationally ranked. With a coaching change, many people figured Gaston Christian would throw in the towel and make what’s best of the season. Something drastically changed and Coach Gabe Blair took over the reins of the basketball program.
While Gaston Christian lost to Weddington, Ardrey Kell and Moravian Prep, one could sense a major turn-around, not to mention the David vs. Goliath upset win over Word of God. Since the new calendar year, Gaston Christian now has won four games in a row over conference foe Westminster, Hickory Grove, Metrolina Christian and then a signature win over South Carolina power Cardinal Newman at the Carmel Christian MLK Showcase. Leading the way is the 1-2 backcourt scoring duo of Isaiah Tate (6-2 junior) and Jaheem Felton (6-5 sophomore), who are averaging 16.6 PG and 15.8 PPG respectively. Gaston Christian is now 8-9 for the season and could become a Darkhorse in the NCISAA 3A.
Gaston Day quietly stands at 17-1
Gaston Day was on not on many people’s radar at the beginning of the season. However, Coach Trent McCallister has Gaston Day rolling to a 17-1 record and now stands at No. 13 in the News & Observer statewide poll. More importantly, Gaston Day has won a lot of close games, which speaks to good coaching and veteran play.
For example, Gaston Day has quality wins over Asheville Christian (113-110), Concord Academy (78-76) Covenant Day (55-54), Northside Christian (68-63), and Concord Academy again (70-76). Their lone loss came to United Faith (86-83).
Leading the way for Gaston Day is Callum Richard (6-10 junior), Chris Britt (5-9 senior), Evan Montanari (6-2 junior) and Colin Fayed (6-1 junior). Britt is averaging 22.2 PPG and dishing out 6.5 APG, Montanari is averaging 16.2 PPG and shooting 47% from the 3-point line, Fayed is averaging 10.8 PPG and shooting 42% from the 3-point line, while Richard is almost averaging a double double in points (14.8 PPG) and rebounds (9.5 RPG)
NCHSAA 4A is absolutely loaded
Looking at our News & Observer statewide poll, the NCHSAA 4A is absolutely loaded. Currently, half the teams in the top 20 are in the NCHSAA 4A. We have Weddington (No. 3), Chambers (No. 4), North Mecklenburg (No. 6), Richmond (No. 10), Grimsley (No. 11), Cleveland (No. 17), Jordan (No. 18), Ardrey Kell (No. 19) and Myers Park (No. 20). One thing is for sure, the excitement of the state playoffs will be quite entertaining for all levels, but the 4A will have some monster matchups.
Mid-season favorites for state playoffs
West: Chambers, Weddington
East: New Hanover, Richmond
Darkhorse: Ardrey Kell, Grimsley, Myers Park, North Mecklenburg
West: Central Cabarrus, West Charlotte
East: Northwood, Seventy-First
Darkhorse: Hickory, J.H. Rose, South Central, West Carteret
West: Hendersonville, R-S Central
East: Cummings, Farmville Central
Darkhorse: Granville Central, Kinston, Lincoln Charter, Robinson
West: Hayesville, Winston-Salem Prep
East: North Edgecombe, Wilson Prep
Darkhorse: Bishop McGuinness, Tarboro, Washington County, Uwharrie Charter
Carmel Christian, Charlotte Latin, Greensboro Day, Providence Day
Asheville Christian, Asheville School, Concord Academy, Gaston Christian
Burlington School, Gaston Day, Trinity Academy, Wayne Country Day
Greenfield, United Faith