Northwest boys on win streak, while girls struggle

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2006

By Bill Kiser

Kannapolis Citizen

Northwest Cabarrus’ boys and girls basketball teams find themselves heading in different directions as the holiday break nears.

The Trojans’ boys squad is riding a two-game winning streak after pulling out victories over a pair of perennial 4A playoff contenders.

However, Northwest’s girls are on a downward slope, posting back-to-back losses after opening the season with five straight wins.

But those were all non-conference games — the Trojans are ready to open the “real season” this week when they begin their North Piedmont Conference schedule.

Northwest Cabarrus opens its conference slate with doubleheaders against a pair of Iredell County opponents. The Trojans host Lake Norman on Tuesday, then travel to Mooresville on Thursday.

Northwest 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 Trojans, teams from A.L. Brown, Central Cabarrus, Concord, J.M. Robinson, Mt. Pleasant, Charlotte’s Myers Park 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.

The Trojans’ boys (6-1) could wind up the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Medical tournament, especially if they can sweep past both the Wildcats — considered a contender for the NPC title this year — and the Blue Devils.

As it stands, Northwest Cabarrus will be a favorite to win both conference games, especially after beating former 4A state champions Central Cabarrus 58-53 on Dec. 12 and North Mecklenburg 50-47 on Dec. 15.

“The last two weeks, if you had told me we were going to play (A.L. Brown), Concord, Central Cabarrus and North Meck and wind up 3-1, I’d have be thrilled,” Trojans head coach Daniel Jenkins said.

“In the big scheme of things, they’re just another game because they’re non-conference. But it’s a big confidence boost for our guys to beat teams like that.”

Northwest will need that confidence, as Lake Norman is one of three teams that are considered contenders — the others are NWC and West Rowan — for the North Piedmont title this season.

“Their senior class, when they were sophomores, played on a very good JV team that went undefeated and beat people by 20-30 points on a regular basis,” Jenkins said. “They’ve been together a while, and they’ve added (6-7 center) Nathan Bowers from (J.M.) Robinson. They’re also well coached, so that’s going to be a tough game.”

The Trojans’ girls squad could use some of that confidence after losing two straight, falling to Central Cabarrus 60-33 and to North Mecklenburg 53-37.

“We played a horrible first half (against Central), but we played them even in the second half,” Northwest head coach Daryl Crego said. “Too little, too late though.

“We did a lot better against North Meck — we were only down by one (point) at the end of the third quarter. We hung tough in the fourth quarter, but we had to start fouling and they went 11-of-16 from the line in the quarter.”

But there were some positives to come out of those games, according to Crego, especially in the play of sophomore point guard Kelly Simpkins.

While the Trojans’ offense has shown remarkable balance — at least eight players a game score, and only once this season has a player scored in double digits — Simpkins has emerged as their leading scorer at 9.8 points per game.

“She’s just growing and stepping up,” Crego said of Simpkins. “I think her soccer skills — she’s going to play Division I ball somewhere — are carrying over to the basketball court. She sees the floor well just like she sees the field, and that’s helped her grow in her basketball skills.

“Her scoring is picking up, and her turnovers are way down from early in the yeah when she was throwing the ball away 8-9 times a game. … Nine (points) doesn’t seem like a lot to a lot of people, but the way that we play means that we don’t have that one player everybody looks to to score.”