SPENCER — It looks like Brian Lytton has struck gold…and green.
Lytton remembers the long bus trips and extended huddles with last year’s raw, but talented North Rowan girls team. The long roads that seemed to lead to nowhere now seem worthwhile to Lytton at the dawn of his second season in Spencer. Barring multiple serious injuries, there’s pretty much no way North isn’t significantly better this year.
“We’re really excited about the team,” Lytton said. “I thought we had a good year last year and to add the players we did is really going to help us.”
The most fruitful roster in the county this year shows the Cavaliers are super-team made for a special run before a much-anticipated season. There’s parity between youth and experience, some much-needed size has been added and a year of experience has been added to what was the most competitive North team in years last year.
The Cavaliers haven’t made a regional since 1997, haven’t won the Moir Christmas Classic since 2002, and haven’t won their conference tournament since 2006. The drought seems destined to snap this year entering a new classification (2A), a new conference (Central Carolina) and a new roster that boasts one of the best players in the region.
That would be Brielle Blaire, the girls County Player of the Year two seasons ago, who has found Spencer and will wear green and gold for her senior year. Blaire helped win a state championship at Salisbury her freshman season. The 6-foot-1 Virginia Tech commit has 1,581 career points and will make fans come to the girls and boys games
“To have the kind of athleticism and skill set that she does, it’s phenomenal,” Lytton said. “She can play any position. It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to coach someone like that.”
Last year’s freshman quartet is a year older and already accomplished a lot last year. North went 13-12, reaching the second round of the playoffs. The Cavs tied a school record for points in a game against North Moore, then beat East Montgomery 91-21 to break the record. Last year’s team was compelling, but needed a physicality that both Blaire sisters bring.
“The thing we had going for us last year is playing up-tempo,” Lytton said. “If we couldn’t force turnovers, it was hard for us. Rebounding was an issue. Brielle and Ashley play a lot more physical. That’s something we really needed.”
The excitement is definitely there. But revamped personnel and a new conference also carry unknowns. North has four transfers and enters a league with stout East Davdison and some unfamiliar foes.
“You can have a team that looks good on paper,” said Lytton. “But it takes some time to get used to each other. I’m learning how to communicate and get the most out of them.”
The Cavs are loaded at guard. Special Washington, Nycieko Dixon, Demeria Robinson, Aliyah Farmer and Ashley Blaire are all there.
“You can never have too many good guards,” Lytton said. “I don’t have any problems starting four guards and one forward.”
Dixon, like Blaire, is going for it all her senior year after playing three years at West. Dixon was all-county last year and can score in a variety of ways. She has 987 career points.
“She’s clearly able to score and very fast,” Lytton said of Dixon. “She’s been very coachable and bought in to what we’re trying to do.”
Robinson, last year’s team MVP and Washington will have some of the load taken off after having to so many things last year.
“Demeria was the leader in every statistical category you can count,” Lytton said. “Now, a lot of that pressure is lifted and she can focus on being a good point guard.”
Washington didn’t wait to impress, scoring double-digit points in eight of her first nine varsity contests. Lytton says she could be one of the Cavs’ top scorers this season.
“She’s really matured and grown up some,” Lytton said. “She can really score and do a lot of different things.”
North loses long-ranger Taylor Sells and Amber Carter to graduation.
Ashley Blaire is another capable guard that contributed at SHS last year. Ashley can be a floor general and play sound, smart defense.
“She probably could play point guard for us too,” said Lytton, naming his grocery-list of guards. “She’s very versatile.”
Tre Allen is back after a solid freshman year in which she pitched in double-digit points twice, including a 16-point effort against East Montgomery. Anna Lingle is a scrappy senior that can provide defensive grit and leadership. Natiesha Liles and Sierra Cannon are junior guards. Fredejah Royer can provide a post presence.
Lytton isn’t familiar with the CCC yet, but expects the usual suspects to contend like East Davidson, who gets a good part of its team back, and Thomasville and Lexington.
North opens the season next Tuesday at home against Parkland.
“We’re more physical and have more depth,” Lytton said. “It’s going to be an exciting year for sure.”
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