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A.L. Brown girls: Wonders banking on experience

KANNAPOLIS —  A.L. Brown coach Mike Wolford won’t forget the Wonders’ first experiences in the Mecka conference anytime soon.

“We’re playing at North Meck in December, and we’re down like 18-6 after five minutes,” Wolford said. “I called a timeout, and the girls came off the court huffing and puffing. I remember saying, ‘They’re big, aren’t they? They’re fast, aren’t they? They can jump, can’t they? ‘”

The Wonders had to answer affirmatively to all those questions. It was a tough transition year for the program. Brown beat Vance twice, but those were the only Mecka games it won.

But there were some other close calls. By the end of the season, the Wonders adjusted to the pace and to the intensity level they need to play at to compete.

They expect to do much better this year — and it might be more than wishful thinking.

“It’s a tough, physical league, but we believe we can be top three,” A.L. Brown senior Aitana Grant said.

Wolford isn’t making any predictions, but he clearly likes his team.

“We’re fast, we’re athletic, and we’ve got a lot of experience,” Wolford said.

The Wonders are deep. Wolford has eight veterans that he’d be comfortable starting.

Grant, Sascha McCoy and Kyla Downs are tough, fast guards with scoring ability. Point guard Shemya Stanback is just 5-foot-1 but is quick and hard to press.  Esther Kituku and Mariah Howard are hard-nosed 5-8 girls who battle on the boards. Talethia Alexander is a streaky shooter who will win some games for the Wonders with her 3-pointers. Kelly Chrismon, a sophomore who plays softball and volleyball, is 5-10 and athletic.

“We’re not tall,” Wolford said. “We do have long arms and we can can jump, but in our league, rebounding could be an issue.”

Junior Cresha Irving is the most likely to help off last season’s jayvee team.

“Our conference had some seniors, and I’m hoping teams will be down some,” Wolford said. “And I expect us to be up some.”

A.L. Brown beat East Rowan last season and split with South Rowan. Those were the top teams in the 3A South Piedmont Conference.

A.L. BROWN’S ARTISTS

Aitana Grant, senior, guard

Grant is a special athlete and is maturing as a player and improving as a shooter. She was All-Mecka in 2013-14.

“She had four straight games of 20-plus points last season,” Wolford said. “She had a lot of foul trouble early in her career, but she’s playing a lot smarter now”

Kyla Downs, junior, guard

Downs has a great-looking jumper and makes hanging moves to the hoop not many girls can make.

Sascha McCoy, senior, forward

McCoy is an aggressive player and will be used at every position except point guard.

Mariah Howard, junior, forward

Her long arms make her play taller. She fights for boards, and she’ll get to the foul line a lot.

THE WONDERS’ HOOPSOGRAPHY

Returning players: 8

2013-14 record: 6-17, 2-12 Mecka

2013-14 conf. finish: 7th

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