High school basketball: Tuesday’s first-round girls matchups
By Mike London
First-round games are on Tuesday. Second-round games are on Thursday.
West Rowan and North Rowan will have home doubleheaders Tuesday, with the girls games leading off.
North Rowan has confirmed an $8 admission charge for the doubleheader there.
Salisbury and Carson will have solo girls games at home. East Rowan’s girls and A.L. Brown’s girls are on the road.
It’s interesting that neighbors Salisbury and North Rowan are playing against neighbors. Both East Gaston and Mountain Island Charter School will be making the trip to Rowan County from Mount Holly.
(22) Mountain Island Charter Academy (9-10) at (11) North Rowan (19-8), 1A, 6 p.m.
North Rowan hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016 when it took two, but the Cavaliers have a good chance to end that drought.
North finished second in the Yadkin Valley Conference regular season and was conference tournament runner-up to Gray Stone, which took both titles.
Mountain Island Charter’s Raptors play in the PAC 7, a league that includes such schools as Community School of Davidson, Langtree Charter and Pine Lake Prep.
North lost in the first round of last season’s playoffs to Community School of Davidson.
Mountain Island Charter has a couple of amazing athletes. Leading scorer Zahra Bichara, who gets 19 points per game, finished eighth in the long jump in the recent 1A/2A indoor track state meet. She’s a sprinter as well as a jumper and is also regarded as a fine volleyball player.
Leading rebounder Chloe Hatzopoulos averages 11.5 boards per game. She also was Gaston County’s softball player of the year last spring. She batted over .600 with 12 homers.
North frequently gets solid scoring from four girls. Sophomore Hannah Wilkerson and junior Natavia Taborn will easily get to 1,000 points next season. Freshman Kamora Cannie has exceptional quickness as well as a dangerous 3-point shot, so she has a very high ceiling. Makiya McDaniel is another veteran and gives North an inside presence.
(32) East Gaston (14-11) at (1) Salisbury (25-1), 2A, 7 p.m.
East Gaston looks better than a standard No. 32 seed and was the third-place team in the 7-team Southwestern Athletic Conference with a 7-5 record. East Gaston has won four of its last five games.
East Gaston did lose at Shelby by 49, but aside from Shelby and Forestview, East Gaston didn’t get blown out.
The star for the Warriors is guard AJ Price, who supplies a high percentage of the team’s offense. The other player to watch is 5-foot-11 Makayla Boyd, who averages almost 10 rebounds.
Salisbury got a test in the conference tournament final from Oak Grove and needed it. The Hornets won in double overtime for their 17th straight victory.
Salisbury’s Anayia Fulson (1,300 career points), Rachel McCullough and Jaleiah Gibson were a big part of the team that lost in the fourth round last season. The Hornets subtracted Bryanna Troutman, one of the top players in school history, but they added three talented freshmen in Kyla Bryant, Jamecia Huntley and Mary Morgan. Bryant is the leading scorer.
(22) East Rowan (20-6) at (11) Hickory (19-6), 3A, 6 p.m.
It’s a challenging first-round game for East Rowan. The Mustangs will be in the opening game of a Hickory girls/boys doubleheader.
Hickory is a perennial powerhouse and plays in the Northwestern Conference, a split 3A/4A league.
The best three teams in that league were 3As — Freedom, the No. 1 seed in the 3A West bracket, Hickory and Watauga (West Rowan’s first-round opponent).
Hickory coach Barbara Helms has racked up more than 400 wins at the school in 17 seasons.
Hickory went 9-3 in the league for second place, losing two to Freedom and splitting with Watauga. Watauga also edged Hickory in the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Hickory has a 6-foot-5 player Shelby Darden, who has signed with Belmont Abbey. There’s another 6-5 player on the bench.
The scorers usually are Aysha Short, 6-footer Finley Lefevers and Chloe James.
East has three seniors — 1,000-point scorer Adalie Harrison, Grace Eagle and Caroline Houpe — in its top six. East gets considerable height from sophomore Mary Spry and freshmen Haley Dalton and Leah Hinceman, but the Mustangs don’t have anyone who is 6-foot-5.
(19) Watauga (17-8) at (14) West Rowan (20-5), 3A
West Rowan didn’t get any breaks in the draw.
In the final adjusted MaxPreps rankings, Watauga is rated as the eighth-best 3A team in the state, ahead of Carson, ahead of Hickory, ahead of West Rowan, ahead of just about everybody.
The problem for Watauga was an upset loss to Alexander Central during the Northwestern Conference regular season. Watauga lost twice to undefeated Freedom and split regular season games with Hickory, but that loss to Alexander Central led to a third-place finish in the conference with an 8-4 record. As at at-large entry in the playoffs, Watauga had to be seeded behind all the automatic qualifiers. Hence, that No. 19 seed.
While there’s not a lot of crossover between West Rowan volleyball and girls basketball, the Watauga girls basketball roster looks a whole lot like the volleyball team that lost an epic match at West Rowan in the fourth round of the state playoffs — Rebekah Farthing, Brooke Byrd, Brelyn Sturgill, Brooke Scheffler, maybe some more.
Farthing, a D-I athlete, is all-conference in basketball every year and is the team’s leading scorer, but volleyball is her thing. She’s headed to Georgia Southern for volleyball.
A complication for Watauga is the ankle injury suffered by Byrd in the conference tournament. She’s the No. 2 scorer for the Pioneers. It isn’t known if she’ll be able to play Tuesday.
The third scorer for Watauga is Chelsi Hodges. She’s a 6-footer who averages double figures.
West tied for second in the North Piedmont Conference with East Rowan and was runner-up to regular-season champ Carson in the conference tournament.
The offensive load for West has been carried by UNC Asheville signee Abigail Wilson, who averages 26.5 points and is going to draw a lot of defensive attention from Watauga.
Wilson has scored at an astounding and has 662 points as a senior. West’s record for points in a season was set by her mother Wendy Hampton Wilson, who scored 668 in the 1993-94 season, before heading to Florida State.
It’s going to be imperative for someone else to score double digits for West, which starts five seniors. Whitley Arnott had a career-high 17 in the NPC tournament final. Taylor Poole had 18 in the semifinals. Cindy Connolly scored in double figures in both tournament games.
(29) A.C. Reynolds (10-13) at (4) Carson (23-3), 3A, 6 p.m.
North Piedmont Conference champ Carson has won eight straight going into the playoffs.
While some local teams (girls and boys) got worst-case draws, the Cougars had to be pleased with a No. 4 seed, which is better than projected.
A 4 seed means the opportunity for three home playoff games.
A.C. Reynolds’ Rockets were the middle team in the nine-team Western Mountain Athletic Conference, placing fifth with a 9-7 record. Enka and Asheville, North Buncombe and Erwin were the top teams.
The Rockets beat third-place North Bumcombe once. They went 8-0 against the bottom four teams in the league.
The Rockets had a few really ugly losses, including a 47-point setback to Asheville in February.
Guard Emma Reynolds is an excellent 3-pointer shooter. She’s small, although not as small as Carson’s Maci Cooper.
Cooper, Colbie Perry and Ellie Wilhelm average double figures for Carson, although the undersized Cougars do it more with hustle and defense than anything else. Five different Cougars have been the scoring leader in a game, and two more have scored in double figures.
The only 3A team that’s beaten Carson is West Rowan, which went 2-2 against the Cougars. Carson’s other loss was to 4A North Meck.
(31) A.L. Brown (10-15) at (2) SE Guilford (25-1), 3A
The Wonders, who finished fourth in the six-team South Piedmont Conference, were on the bubble, but they did get in.
It will be a chance for first-year head coach Mark Hogan to lead a team in a playoff game in Greensboro. Southeast Guilford is near Forest Oaks Country Club.
The Wonders have six seniors, including Jaliyah Simmons, Jaliah Smoutherson and Jala Campbell, who have done most of the scoring.
Southeast Guilford is the defending champ in 3A and is a threat to do it again. Southeast Guilford still has Kennedi Simmons, who is headed to Winston-Salem State. Simmons scored 27 points and was MVP of the championship-game victory against Cuthbertson last March.
Southeast Guilford has won nine straight since losing to 4A power Northwest Guilford in January.