Preview: who and what to watch for in Chatham women's basketball this season

NCHSAA basketball season officially began with games Monday.

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/6/21

With high school sports gradually returning, the News + Record is previewing local teams across Chatham County, from Pittsboro to Siler City to Bear Creek to Chapel Hill.

Here’s a breakdown for …

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Preview: who and what to watch for in Chatham women's basketball this season

NCHSAA basketball season officially began with games Monday.

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Posted
Updated:

With high school sports gradually returning, the News + Record is previewing local teams across Chatham County, from Pittsboro to Siler City to Bear Creek to Chapel Hill.

In order of last year's records, here’s a breakdown for local women’s basketball teams, who along with men’s basketball teams officially begin their 2020-21 COVID-19-altered seasons this week.

One note: Woods Charter, which went 11-7 and qualified for the playoffs last year, isn’t fielding a varsity women’s basketball team this year. One women’s player — Emi Hutter-DeMarco — will compete on the men’s team.

Chatham Charter Knights

Head coach: Jamarr Ross, first season

2019 highlights: 27-4, 14-0 Central Tar Heel 1A Conference, lost in NCHSAA 1A round of 16

2020 outlook: After last season’s breakthrough, Ross agreed Chatham Charter’s name is “ringing a little bit” among 1A women’s basketball spheres. The Knights have the talent, but it’ll take them meshing further as teammates — especially when the going gets tough — to “get us over the hump,” Ross said.

Top returners: Sophomore guard Tamaya Walden is a “special, special talent,” Ross said; expect her to match and likely surpass her freshman year statistics (13.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5 spg). Chatham Charter’s senior frontcourt duo of Morgan Lineberry (15 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Rebecca McGaughnea (7.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg) is back and ready to chip in. Sophomore Lily Jones (4.6 ppg) will provide backcourt depth.

Top newcomers: Junior Alexis Baldwin (9.4 ppg) has the most raw talent of any forward on the team, Ross said, but her minutes will be limited as she eases back from a knee injury that cost her most of last season. Senior Breanna Spinks, who was an all-conference forward as a freshman, returns to the team after a two-year hiatus she used to focus on volleyball. Forward Meah Brooks and guard Delana Loflin have a chance to be impact freshmen.

Full roster | Full schedule | Previous coverage

Northwood Chargers

Head coach: Cameron Vernon, 12th season

Assistant coaches: Kerri Snipes, Jazmine Atkins, Jerry Lux

2019 highlights: 22-6, 13-1 Big 8 3A Conference, lost in NCHSAA 3A round of 16

2020 outlook: After an excellent season in conference and a deep tournament run, Northwood has a “bullseye on our chest,” Vernon said. HighSchoolOT thought as much, ranking the Chargers No. 15 in its statewide preseason poll. Returning its top three scores and more, Northwood’s a team to watch.

Top returners: 6-foot sophomore Te’Keyah Bland is already getting Division I interest after an all-conference freshman year (12 ppg, 4.7 rpg). She can be a “force inside,” Vernon said, as well as a menace defensively. Junior guard McKenna Snively (8.7 ppg) is the team’s best outside shooter. Junior forward Caroline Allen has made “incredible strides,” Vernon said, while junior guard Natalie Bell (7.5 ppg) and senior guard Rae McClarty (5.6 ppg) provide more scoring options.

Top newcomers: Vernon’s been very impressed with Skylar Adams, a freshman guard and the younger sister of 2020 Northwood alum Chandler Adams (a starter on last year’s team). Adams will be crucial in filling the void left behind by promising and versatile sophomore guard Gianna McManaman, who broke her leg over the summer and won’t play this season.

Full roster | Full schedule

Chatham Central Bears

Head coach: Lynda Burke, sixth season

Assistant coach: Kathryn Hackney

2019 highlights: 16-13, 11-5 Yadkin Valley 1A Conference, lost in NCHSAA 1A round of 16

2020 outlook: The Bears got hot at the right time last season, tying for third in a deep conference but advancing all the way to the NCHSAA quarterfinals, where they lost to eventual co-champion Weldon. Chatham Central lost a few seniors but returns its top two guards and a veteran core for 2020.

Top returners: Senior do-it-all guards Mary Grace Murchison and Danielle Vaughn — both all-conference picks last season — will hold down the backcourt and provide most of the Bears’ scoring. Savannah Stilwell, an all-conference honorable mention, headlines an experienced, all-senior frontcourt that also includes Grace Jones, Tanner Little and Sophie Phillips. Guard Lindsey Johnson also returns.

Top newcomers: Sophomore guard Kailey Green isn’t exactly new to the team — she played last year as a freshman — but Burke said she’s “very excited” to see Green play this season. If Green makes a jump, the accomplished cross country runner could provide key guard depth behind Murchison and Vaughn.

Full roster | Full schedule

Jordan-Matthews Jets

Head coach: Charles Byrd, second season

Assistant coaches: Allison Dones, Antonio Hayes

2019 highlights: 8-16, 4-8 PAC 7 2A Conference

2020 outlook: The Jets will be competitive, Byrd said, but they’ll also need some time. That’s a balance he’s more than willing to take, considering he has but three returners on his nine-player roster. Two 2019-20 all-conference picks will lead the way for J-M; the team also brings in some solid first-timers.

Top returners: Among the Jets’ shortest players at 5-foot-4, junior guard Ellia Wright (11.9 ppg) flourished into a floor general last season, Byrd said. Her scoring, slashing and on-ball defense will be huge boosts for J-M. And 5-foot-10 forward Jasmine Scotton (7.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) is the team’s “heart and soul” and a gifted finisher around the rim, Byrd said. She’ll carry plenty of the offensive load, too.

Top newcomers: Logan Gunter has stood out in practice as an athletic driver and defender, while Lia Carter has developed a knack for sinking 3-pointers. Byrd’s hoping to find a consistent third scorer among this group since Maggie Thornton, an “important piece” on last year’s team, won’t play in 2021.

Full roster | Full schedule

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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