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Wonders back on winning track

By Bill Kiser

Kannapolis Citizen

If A.L. Brown basketball coaches Shelwyn Klutz and Tosha Robinson had their way, the Wonders wouldn’t begin their conference schedule until after the Christmas break.

But at least Brown’s boys and girls basketball teams are back on a winning track as they open play in the South Piedmont Conference this week.

The Wonders began their SPC schedule Tuesday night at home with a doubleheader against Sun Valley. Brown then hits the road for its next two games, traveling to Wadesboro to face Anson County on Friday night and to Indian Trail in southern Union County to play Porter Ridge on Dec. 19.

The Wonders boys are 4-2 entering the start of their conference slate, ending a two-game losing streak on Dec. 8 with a

68-64 non-conference victory over J.M. Robinson.

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Brown’s boys had opened its season with three straight wins, then lost back-to-back games on consecutive nights. The Wonders fell badly to Central Cabarrus 93-53 on Dec. 5 and to cross-town rival Northwest Cabarrus 66-58 on Dec. 6.

“We started off the year pretty good … then we ran into a little buzzsaw at Central Cabarrus,” said Klutz, who is in his 11th season as A.L. Brown’s head coach. “We really needed to get that win last week against Robinson. That was a real confidence booster.

“I really don’t like playing — and I don’t think any coach wants to play — conference games before Christmas. But the way the scheduling is now, everybody’s having to open conference real early. So everybody’s in the same boat.”

The Wonders — now at full strength after getting several players back following the elimination of Brown’s football team from the state playoffs three weeks ago — have displayed balance on offense, with four players averaging seven or more points.

Senior Josh Gray leads A.L. Brown at 17.2 points per game, including a 24-point effort in the Wonders’ win over Robinson. Jonathan Efird is second at 10.5 points per game, followed by J.D. Davidson (8.3 ppg) and Jeremy Jones (7.7 ppg).

But Brown’s roster has recently been whittled down due to illness — Josh Posey is out for at least two more weeks after coming down with a case of tonsilitis, and Kenneth Yates is down indefinitely with strep throat.

“Those guys have to get healthy so they can come back and help us,” Klutz said. “Our scoring has been balanced — we’ve got guys who can put the ball in the basket. Hopefully they can continue to play better and get better to help us down the stretch.”

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A.L. Brown’s girls enters its conference opener at 2-4 after snapping a three-game losing streak on Dec. 8 with a 44-31 home non-conference victory over J.M. Robinson.

After opening the season with a loss to South Rowan and a win over Mt. Pleasant, the Wonders lost their next three games — to North Rowan 58-40 on Nov. 29, to Central Cabarrus on Dec. 5, and to Northwest Cabarrus 36-33 on Dec. 6.

The Wonders’ girls squad has been hampered by injuries — Brandie Ross recently returned to the lineup after missing time with an injured ACL, Asha Bennett missed time with a shoulder injury, and Tori Safrit sat out three games with a broken finger.

“We had a pretty slow start,” said first-year Brown head coach Tosha Robinson. “We’ve been struggling with injuries, because those ladies were starters or played significant minutes for us.

“But we’ve been doing pretty decent, considering we’ve only got one senior and two other girls who played varsity basketball last year.”

Marla Powell, the lone senior, has been carrying the freight offensively for the Wonders, averaging 18.8 points per game and scoring 20 or more points three times in Brown’s first six games.

“She’s been very consistent from the field, from

3-point range and from the free-throw line,” Robinson said of Powell. “She’s a major threat to anybody as far as offense is concerned.

“But everybody knows that she’s a major contributor to our offense. We’ve got to get her open by setting screens and giving her a chance to get good looks is vital. & quot;

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Bill Kiser covers sports for the Kannapolis Citizen. Reach him at sports@salisburypost.com.

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