High school basketball: Growing year for South girls

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2023

By Mike London

Fifth in a series of reports on local basketball teams …

LANDIS — South Rowan’s girls have only one senior, so the Raiders are expected to face another uphill fight in the South Piedmont Conference.

South battled last season, but just couldn’t score enough to beat many team in the SPC. The Raiders had one nice stretch in which they won four out of five, including an upset of East Rowan, but they averaged 36.8 points per game for the season, not a lot more than Janiya Downs was scoring by herself not too long ago.

Now the Raiders face life without Madilyn Cherry, the sharpshooting guard who carried the Raiders’ offense at times, with 20-plus scoring nights.

“We’re working hard on getting better offensively,” said head coach Alex Allen, the former Carson star who is entering her fifth season at the helm. “We’re excited about the season and excited about the returners we have and the new faces we’ve added. But we are young. We’ll rely mostly on juniors and sophomores.”

Allen is unfailingly optimistic, but life can be tough in the SPC where 2022-23 state champ West Rowan and Robinson are expected to be among the best in 3A.

The Raiders do have good athletes, although for some of them basketball is the second sport or even the third sport. They have made a name for themselves or are planning to make a name for themselves on softball fields and volleyball courts.

South will look to build its offense and defense around post player Kynlee Dextraze, a junior softball smasher who is a two-year starter. She averaged 9.5 points as a sophomore and put up some 16s and 18s on her good nights. She has scored 369 career points.

Opponents try hard to get her in foul trouble, and Allen is going to need her to stay on the floor for close to 32 minutes.

“She’s in very good shape after returning to volleyball this year, and Kynlee is a big presence for us down low,” Allen said. “She works very hard. She leads by example. She continues to grow as a player.”

Junior Hannah Atwell also has played two varsity seasons and has a lot of experience. She scored in double figures once last season and averaged 4.0 points. She’s going to be important as far as replacing some of Cherry’s production.

“She’s a consistent guard who sees the court, and she can score some,” Allen said.

Sophomore Ari Alston has a chance to make a jump. She averaged 4.8 points as a varsity freshman, with one 15-point outburst, and has the athletic ability to double her scoring average as a sophomore.

“She’ll be huge for us,” Allen said. “She’s grown some, she’s added some skills and she can by a dynamic post player.”

Those three are the returning starters, although South also returns junior guard McKenzie Menius, who has varsity experience, and senior Kiara Alvarado, who hasn’t played a lot but will provide some leadership.

Ella Morgan, a sophomore guard who got some varsity playing time as a freshman, is regarded as a big part of South’s future.

“She’s a true, pass-first  point guard with a high basketball IQ,” Allen said. “She finds the open man.”

South has a good group of athletes in the sophomore class. Avery Fisher, Danica Krieg and Meghan Eagle are three-sport athletes who have varsity experience in other sports but will be playing varsity basketball for the first time. Krieg was the leading scorer for the jayvees. Eagle was the leading rebounder. Fisher led in steals and blocked shots.

“That group makes us deeper and more versatile,” Allen said.

Sophomore Dabrianna Pharr also moves up from the jayvees and gives the Raiders help in the post.

Allen also plans to keep  freshman Leisha Carter on the varsity.

“She’s quick and she’s fast and she can help us defensively right away,” Allen said. “It’s going to be a growing year for us, and she can be a part of it.”

The Raiders open at A.L. Brown on Friday.



Coach: Alex Allen (5th season, 24-63)

2022-23: 8-16 overall, 5-9 3A South Piedmont Conference (6th)

Playoffs: Did not make playoffs

Top returners: Kynlee Dextraze, Hannah Atwell, Ari Alston

Key additions: deep sophomore class

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