After a months-long delay, the start of the high school basketball season is finally here, and there are eight games early this week that should help bring the new year in on a high note.
The first matchups featuring county teams will take place Tuesday night, as the Forest Hills girls and boys basketball teams take on Salisbury at home. The Yellow Jacket girls are searching for their third straight Rocky River Conference championship under head coach Marc Richardson, while the boys are hoping for another deep playoff run under head coach Matt Sides.
Forest Hills’ girls will be led by the dynamic duo of senior Hope Benson and sophomore Jamyah Blakeney, the reigning two RRC girls players of the year. The Lady Jackets will have their work cut out for them Tuesday, as the Salisbury girls are coming off a 29-2 season where they fell in the 2A semis to Newton-Conover.
The Salisbury boys are looking for revenge after falling to Forest Hills by one point, 60-59, in the 2A state playoffs last season. The Yellow Jackets will lean heavily on sophomore guard Ty Burch as well as senior forward Mashad Hester and sophomore forward Zack Barbour. Wednesday will mark the start of the basketball seasons for six county schools in the Southern Carolina Conference. The most intriguing set of games sees Weddington’s boys and girls teams host Parkwood.
The Weddington boys are the favorites to win the SCC again this season after finishing last year 22-8 overall and 13-1 in league play. The Warriors are led by junior guard Chase Lowe — The Enquirer-Journal’s 2021 Preseason Player of the Year. Weddington’s boys have won 16 straight games against Parkwood overall, their last loss coming by one point, 54-53, back on Feb. 11, 2013.
On the girls side, both Parkwood and Weddington are in the second-tier of teams in the SCC behind Cuthbertson. The Rebels return several key pieces from last season’s 16-11 team, including junior Shimiya Taylor and sophomore Jade Washington. Weddington, on the other hand, will depend on seniors Miranda Barron and Emily Cunningham as well as sophomore Tatum Bowen.
Also facing off Tues ay are the Sun Valley and Cuthbertson girls and boys teams, in Waxhaw. The Cavalier girls are the favorites to win the SCC regular season championship again after doing so each of the previous two seasons. Sun Valley, meanwhile, is trying to improve on a 5-21 overall season in 2019-20.
The Sun Valley boys will also have work to do this season, as they only return one player from last season’s 16-12 team. The Spartans will likely lean on a bevy of underclassmen to help carry the load as the season progresses. On the other side, Cuthbertson is heading into its first season under new head coach Chris Caputi, who took over for long-time head coach Mike Helms this offseason. The Cavaliers will be led by senior guard Will Heyward, who averaged 8.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in 2019-20. Also Tuesday night, Marvin Ridge’s boys and girls teams travel to take on Monroe.
The Maverick girls are expected to win Tuesday night after going 11-13 overall in 2019-20. Monroe, meanwhile, went 1-22 overall and 0-14 in Southern Carolina Conference play.
The matchup between the Marvin Ridge and Monroe boys should be a tight affair, but the Redhawks might hold the advantage thanks to junior Shaleak Knotts, who should be the focal point of Monroe’s team after averaging 15.6 points and 9.8 rebounds as a sophomore.