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Brown looks for early Christmas present

By Bill Kiser

Kannapolis Citizen

An early start to its South Piedmont Conference schedule has worked out in spades for A.L. Brown’s boys basketball team.

Now, the Wonders could wind up giving themselves an early Christmas present this week — sole possession of the top spot in the league standings.

A.L. Brown will play its third South Piedmont Conference doubleheader of 2006 on Tuesday, traveling to Porter Ridge on Tuesday. The Wonders then return home to play South Rowan in a non-conference game on Thursday.

Brown will then take a few days off for Christmas before beginning play in the Northeast Medical Holiday Tournament, which runs Dec. 27-29.

The eight-school field — in addition to the Wonders, teams from Central Cabarrus, Concord, J.M. Robinson, Mt. Pleasant, Charlotte’s Myers Park, Northwest Cabarrus and West Stanly are entered — will play its opening-round and semifinal games at Central Cabarrus (boys) and A.L. Brown’s Bullock Gymnasium (girls) on Dec. 27-28.

The championship and consolation final games in both divisions will be played on Dec. 29 at the Cabarrus Event Center in Concord.

Brown (6-2, 2-0) enters this week’s games riding a three-game winning streak, which includes league victories on the road over Sun Valley 59-55 on Dec. 12 and Anson County 69-61 on Dec. 15.

“We sqeaked out couple of barnburners,” Wonders head coach Shelwyn Klutz said. “That’s always a confidence booster when you can go on the road and win at a place like Anson.”

A win by Brown over Porter Ridge (5-2, 2-0) on Tuesday night would make it the lone undefeated team in the SPC, and give the Wonders a one-game lead in the league standings entering the holiday break.

The Pirates are led by 6-5 Charlotte Christian transfer D.J. Harrison, who averages 18 points per game, and 6-3 senior Nick Reid, an outside shooting threat averaging 15 points per game.

“They beat Concord, so that tells you a lot about them,” Klutz said. “They’ve got two guys who can really score, so we’ve definitely got to play our ‘A’ game down there to have a chance to win.”

But the Wonders have their own scoring threats — Josh Gray and Jonathan Efird lead the team at 16 and 12 points per game, respectively, and six other players average five or more points per game.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time … but it’d be nice to get another conference road win,” Klutz said. “That’d put us in good position early. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s still a long way to go.”

A.L. Brown’s girls (3-5, 1-1) enter the last week of its 2006 regular-season schedule having split its first two SPC games. The Wonders lost to Sun Valley 46-37 on Dec. 12 in their conference opener, but bounced back three days later to beat Anson County 42-31 on Dec. 15.

“We were leading (against Sun Valley) … but we couldn’t hold onto it at the end,” Brown head coach Tosha Robinson said. “We couldn’t keep our poise together and run our offense. That hurt us at the end.

“But our ladies were focused and determined to win the game (against Anson County). We knew that we had to be at least 1-1 in the conference. We didn’t want to get too far behind and try to play catchup to secure a spot in the state playoffs.”

Senior Marla Powell leads the Wonders in scoring at 17.4 points per game, but Brown has developed a second and third scoring option in Jasmine Lowery and Brandie Ross.

Lowery has scored in double figures in the Wonders’ last four games, and Ross — back in the lineup after suffering an ACL injury — has averaged more than eight points per game.

“We’re getting it together,” Robinson said. “I’m excited and proud of Jasmine. People said she wasn’t a scorer, but she’s put herself in position to be a scoring threat. Now people are going to have to play true defense on her.

“The last couple games, nobody’s been playing a box-and-1 on us. I think it’s because people have seen our box scores. That’s given Marla the opportunity to get more open looks and uncontested shots. It’s taken a little pressure off of her.”

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