2021-22 Basketball Preview

Who and what to watch for in women’s basketball this season

Posted 11/23/21

With the 2021-22 basketball season getting underway, the News + Record is taking a look at the teams across the county and previewing all of the upcoming action for both men’s and women’s basketball.

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2021-22 Basketball Preview

Who and what to watch for in women’s basketball this season

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Posted

With the 2021-22 basketball season getting underway, the News + Record is taking a look at the teams across the county and previewing all of the upcoming action for both men’s and women’s basketball.

Here is the women’s basketball preview, with teams listed in order of best 2020-21 record.

Northwood Chargers

Head coach: Kerri Snipes, first season

Assistant coaches: Jazmine Atkins, Kevin Forster, Thomas Snipes

2020 highlights: 14-1, 11-0 in Big 8 3A conference; lost in NCHSAA 3A Final Four

2021 outlook: Last year, the Chargers were one game shy of a 3A state title game appearance after a home loss to Asheboro in the Final Four, which came after an undefeated regular season. Though they didn’t finish with any hardware, one thing’s for certain: the team put Northwood women’s basketball on the map. The abrupt ending to last year’s historic season has led to the most motivated offseason yet, leading Snipes — who has been an assistant coach for the Chargers the last four seasons — to say, “They’re not satisfied. They don’t want to settle for finishing in the Final Four, they want to win it all. They’ve set that out for themselves as a team already.”

Top returners: Te’Keyah Bland (15.9 points-per-game) was the only double-digit scorer for the Chargers last season as their go-to post player, using her 6-foot frame to get the best of her opponents in the paint. She’ll be back this season as a junior alongside up-and-coming sophomore point guard Skylar Adams (8.0 ppg), who managed the team well during its playoff run last year. Guards Myla Marve (2.4 ppg) and Natalie Bell (4.9 ppg), as well as center Caroline Allen (3.2 ppg), are all set to make an impact defensively as seniors, too, according to Snipes.

Top newcomers: Olivia Porter is a senior transfer from Auburn High School in Alabama, where she earned 2020-21 All-Area Player of the Year honors and averaged 20.0 ppg. At Northwood, she’s slated to make an immediate impact for Snipes’ squad, who said she “has been a huge help so far and just fit right in with the girls.”

Chatham Charter Knights

Head coach: Jeff Patterson, second season

Assistant coaches: Jennifer Dameron

2020 highlights: 8-3, 5-1 in Central Tar Heel 1A conference; lost in NCHSAA 1st round

2021 outlook: After losing their top scorer over the summer in senior Morgan Lineberry (14.3 points-per-game, 9.3 rebounds-per-game), the Knights are shifting into a defense-heavy team in 2021-22 to make up for any struggles they may have putting points on the board. With just two seniors on the roster — and a bench full of underclassmen — the lack of experienced depth may hurt them down the road, but by then, Patterson said he’s hoping the team as a whole will learn and grow with each game played (win or loss) as the team finds its groove, which undoubtedly included getting the underclassmen involved.

Top returners: The Knights second- and third-leading scorers — senior Alexis Baldwin (13.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg), who is a 5-foot-9 forward with an imposing presence inside and terrific rebounding ability, and junior Tamaya Walden (10.6 ppg, 5.0 assists-per-game), the team’s dual guard and spark plug — are returning to act as Chatham Charter’s top-two options this year. It’s likely that sophomore guard Delana Loflin (6.8 ppg, 2.7 apg) and junior guard Lillian Jones (2.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg) will also provide hard-nosed defense for the Knights as the season goes on.

Top newcomers: There are three incoming freshmen on the Knights this season: guard Ella Ingle, guard Skylar Lynn and center Sasha Blackmon.

Chatham Central Bears

Head coach: Lynda Burke, seventh season

Assistant coach: Kathryn Hackney

2020 highlights: 4-4, 4-3 in Yadkin Valley 1A conference; missed playoffs

2021 outlook: The 2020 season was an off year for the Bears after a third-round playoff exit in 2019, amassing a .500 record and missing the postseason altogether during the pandemic-shortened season. In 2021, Chatham Central hopes to get itself back on track with another group full of upperclassmen, despite losing a strong senior class, including its only two all-conference finishers in Mary Grace Murchison and Danielle Vaughn.

Top returners: Burke is mostly excited by the potential of senior Lindsey Johnson — a two-year starter — senior Ivey Tillman, who looks to play a large part in the offense at the center position and junior Kailey Green. In addition to those two, the duo of seniors Sadie Gaines and Carleigh Gentry will help out tremendously on the defensive end.

Top newcomers: The Bears’ lone freshman this season is one that turned heads in volleyball this year, the 5-foot-9 Karaleigh Dodson, who racked up 202 kills in her first varsity season at Chatham Central.

Jordan-Matthews Jets

Head coach: Lamont Piggie, first season

Assistant coaches: Kenyon Burns, Raysha Fox

2020 highlights: 1-10, 1-10 in PAC 7 2A conference; missed playoffs

2021 outlook: When asked about the style of play he wants to implement this season, Piggie didn’t hesitate when giving his answer: a fast-paced, run-and-gun style. It’s hard to expect anything less from the man who also acts as J-M’s track & field coach. But if his style of play is any indication, Piggie is striving to brush the team’s 1-10 season last year under the rug while simultaneously making their games much more fun for everyone, fans included. In addition to an entirely new style of play, he’s also working to change the culture of the Jets’ program, adding a few more tallies to the win column in the process. “We’re going to shock the world,” Piggie said. “It’s a new era over here.”

Top returners: While the Jets graduated their second-leading scorer in Jasmine Scotten (14.4 points-per-game), they’re returning their top scorer, senior guard Eillia Wright (16.5 ppg), who Piggie described as the team’s “engine,” because things wouldn’t move on the court without her passion, intensity and scoring prowess. Also returning are two sophomores, Lia Carter (1.5 ppg) and Logan Gunter (4.4 ppg), who are next in line to step up on such a young roster.

Top newcomers: Maggie Thornton is a junior combo guard/forward who is coming back after taking her sophomore year off to focus on other sports. She averaged 1.3 points as a freshman in 2019-20, but is set to have a much larger role this season as one of the team’s top scoring options. Piggie said he’s also been blown away by freshman forward/center Kelsey Morris and her “hustle and determination, especially being a freshman already playing like this on varsity” through the offseason and the Jets’ scrimmages.

Woods Charter Wolves

Head coach: Princess Alston

Assistant coaches: Sharon Bynum

2020 highlights: N/A

2021 outlook: After the team took a brief hiatus during the 2020 season, the Wolves are back in 2021 with a squad that Alston recently called her “best group yet.” While its unclear what they’ll bring to the team just yet, Alston sounded giddy when talking about her sophomore class, raving about their athleticism, leadership and even their off-the-court academic integrity.

Top returners: Senior guard Emi Hutter-Demarco is one of the only players left from Alston’s first season in 2019 and was the only women’s player that opted to play with the Wolves’ men’s team last season, where she honed her talents against tough competition. She’s already committed to play basketball for the Technology Tigers of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, according to Alston, but she’s slated to make the most of her last year with the Wolves, acting as one of the top scoring options if she’s able to stay healthy.

Top newcomers: It’s hard to talk about Woods Charter athletics in 2021 without mentioning Lexi Smollen, the 6-foot-tall sophomore phenom that dominated the volleyball court this past season, leading the Wolves to an Sweet 16 appearance. She’s also playing basketball this season, which has Alston all kinds of excited. Smollen is not only able to score points in the paint for the Wolves, but also rack up steals and blocks on the other end as a legitimate two-way threat. Alston also has high hopes for plenty of other sophomores, including Caroline Mitchell, who will act as the Wolves’ biggest three-point weapon, as well as Chloe Haswell, along with junior Lucy Miller, all of which will play important roles alongside Smollen and Hutter-Demarco.

Seaforth Hawks

Head coach: Charles Byrd, first season

Assistant coach: Shontai Totten, Antonio Hayes

2020 highlights: N/A

2021 outlook: For Byrd, building the program at Seaforth and coaching in its inaugural season has been “a challenge because I’ve never done it before, but I really like this challenge.” On top of the myriad challenges of starting an entire program from scratch, Byrd’s squad is made up almost entirely of freshmen this season — save for one sophomore — despite playing on the varsity level against many teams that’ll be both older and larger than them. Byrd seems confident in his team’s ability to compete, however, based simply on the talent level and the chemistry his players have with one another despite having never played a varsity game together.

Top returners: N/A

Top newcomers: Seaforth’s talented freshman class is led by guard Gabby White, who Byrd describes as both “phenomenal” and “very good at basketball.” She’s a slasher with terrific speed and court vision. Then there’s Sydney Ballard, a 6-foot-1 inside force with a lot of polish for a freshman, especially when it comes to finishing around the rim. She’ll be paired with Sofia Ramirez, the team’s “enforcer,” according to Byrd, who’s just as strong. Hannah Ajayi is the team’s lone sophomore, which Byrd called the “heart and soul of our team.” Landry Pyland and Bailen Fauth, both freshmen, are also two players that Byrd picked out as working extremely hard with a shot to fly under opposing teams’ radars this season.

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