High school basketball: South girls lost scoring punch, will be young

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 8, 2022


Coach: Alex Allen (4th season, 16-47)

2021-22: 10-14 overall, 6-8 3A South Piedmont Conference (5th)

Playoffs: Lost first round at North Buncombe

League: 3A SPC (West Rowan, East Rowan, Carson, Lake Norman Charter, Concord, Central Cabarrus, NW Cabarrus)

Top returners: Senior Madilyn Cherry, sophomores Kynlee Dextraze and Hannah Atwell


This is the third in a series of high school basketball previews.

By Mike London

LANDIS — South Rowan’s girls made a nice jump in 2021-22.

The quantum leap from two wins to 10 wins was thrilling for Raider fans. Young coach Alex Allen would have been a coach of the year candidate in an average county.

But this is not a average county when it comes to girls basketball. Carson won a state championship in 2021. Salisbury won one in 2022. West Rowan and North Rowan were the second-best teams (behind Carson and Salisbury) in their respective conferences last winter and both won in the state playoffs.

South had some fun nights in 2021-22 in the South Piedmont Conference, splitting with aggressive Northwest Cabarrus and sweeping talented Central Cabarrus to return to the state playoffs.

“I feel good about what we did last season and I felt really good about our new team after our first practice,” Allen said. “It was one of the best practices we’ve ever had. A lot of girls have improved and we’ve got a strong freshman class.”

The challenge for South is to take another step forward — or at least hold its ground — after losing its two best players. Missing from the roster are Bethany Rymer and Mackenzie Chabala, who combined to score 60 percent of South’s points.

Rymer, who filled it up for 19.8 points per game and became a 1,000-point scorer, graduated.

Chabala, who would have been South’s go-to player, made the decision during the summer to play her senior year for 1 of 1 Prep Academy. Chabala aspires to play college basketball, and she hopes to get more exposure as a wing player and play more games against top-level competition as part of a talented 1 of 1 roster. She averaged close to a double-double for the Raiders and cheerfully took charges, so she’ll be missed.

“She helped build our program here, and we wish her the best,” Allen said.

South does have three starters back, so it’s not like the Raiders are starting from scratch.

Senior guard Madilyn Cherry (7.3 points per game), sophomore post Kynlee Dextraze (5.9) and sophomore guard Hannah Atwell (3.3) return. They will have to score more this season for the Raiders to stay competitive.

Allen is confident that they can — and will.

“Madilyn is our vocal leader, she can handle the ball and she has a lot of experience,” Allen said. “Kynlee and Hannah played a lot of minutes for us as freshmen, and their games grew a lot from being in important roles right away.”

Cherry can stroke 3-pointers, but she was streaky as a junior, scoring anywhere from zero to 16 on a given night.

South will need steady double figures from her.

“She’s a natural shooter and she can light it up when she’s on,” Allen said.

Dextraze is strong and agile at 5-foot-10. She’s a good athlete, the school’s top softball player.

“She beats me up when I practice against her,” said Allen, who was playing college basketball at Lynchburg University a few years ago. “She’s a huge presence in the paint for us and I’m hoping she can bully people inside.”

Dextraze averaged 7.0 rebounds as a freshman. She scored in double figures twice — in two of South’s best wins.

Atwell also scored in double figures twice as a freshmen — both times against East Rowan.

“She’s a good shooter and good ball-handler,” Allen said.

The only other player with varsity experience is senior Eden Childers, who scored 24 points last season.

“Experience is big and we know we can count on her,” Allen said. “Her confidence has grown.”

Juniors Mesiyah Howell and Maiya Berry are post players new to the varsity. They’ll provide more size and strength. They are aggressive rebounders.

Junior Kiara Alvarado has been a positive addition. She’s a worker and a tough defender.

Lexie Ritchie, McKenzie Menius and Laney Beaver are sophomores. Allen rates all of them as excellent defensive players.

Allen has high hopes for freshman post Ari Alston, who will be on the varsity.

“She’s got a lot of skills and she’ll play at lot,” Allen said.

Ella Morgan, a freshman, is regarded as the future point guard for the Raiders. Allen plans to take advantage of the new five-quarter rule with her. Morgan probably will be jayvee standout, but she is also expected to get some time for the varsity.

“She’s got some ball skills and she can create things for herself and for her teammates,” Allen said.

The Raiders will open at home against West Iredell on Nov. 18. The first county game will be at North Rowan on Nov. 21. SPC play will start on Dec. 6 at Central Cabarrus.