High school sports have been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, but high school basketball is finally ready to return, albeit more than a month after it would have started in a normal year. Here is a look at the five local high schools and their prospects for the 2020-21 season.
West Stanly Colts (Rocky River Conference 2A/3A)
Coming off two seasons with a 13-14 record, the Colts, led by 11th-year coach John Thompson, improved last year as they put together a 16-12 season with a 5-5 record in conference play.
They will look to continue that progression in 2021.
Last February, the Colts made an impressive run in their conference tournament, knocking off Mount Pleasant (10-15, 4-6 RRC), Central Academy of Technology and Arts (2-23, 0-10 RRC), and Anson (10-14, 6-4 RRC) before succumbing to Forest Hills (29-1, 10-0 RRC) in the championship round.
Later that month, a five-point loss to Lake Norman Charter (22-7, 13-1 South Fork Athletic 2A Conference) in the first round of state playoffs ended West’s campaign.
Perennial heavyweight Forest Hills will likely once again be the team to beat in the RRC, and the Colts will get their chance as the Yellow Jackets travel to West for a matchup on Jan. 13. In the meantime, the Colts will kick off their season with a pair of nonconference games against North Stanly (Jan. 5) and South Stanly (Jan. 8).
North Stanly Comets (Yadkin Valley Conference 1A)
The Comets took a step back last season, compiling a 14-12 overall record after winning 19 games the year before. Still, North was able to pick up 10 conference wins and finished fourth out of the 10 schools in the YVC.
Advancing to the second round of their conference tournament, the Comets suffered a 79-64 loss to Chatham Central (22-6, 14-2 YVC) and lost to North Rowan (22-8, 14-2 YVC) by three points a week later in the first round of 1A playoffs.
Under first-year coach George Walker, North is hoping to break out of the middle of the conference pack this year. The 2021 Comet squad will be made up of three seniors, eight juniors and a pair of sophomores, according to a current preseason report.
The beginning of the Comets’ schedule appears to be daunting as they square off with the RRC’s West Stanly (Jan. 5) and Forest Hills (Jan. 8) before commencing YVC play with a road rematch against North Rowan on Jan. 12.
South Stanly Rebel Bulls (Yadkin Valley Conference 1A)
Fourth-year coach Sean Whitley and the Bulls have been steadily improving over the past few years and will try to make a run at the YVC crown in 2021 and put together a third consecutive winning season. As far as final conference standings, South has landed in second place and third place the past two years.
The 2019-20 Bulls (19-7, 14-2 YVC) were riding an 11-game winning streak until they were unexpectedly derailed in the first rounds of the conference and state playoffs by Uwharrie Charter Academy (10-13, 7-9 YVC) and Queen’s Grant (19-9, 10-4 PAC 7 1A Conference), respectively.
Seniors Malik Kluttz and Brandon Teller are returning to the Bulls’ starting lineup, joined by juniors Collin Smith and Carson Lowder, as well as sophomore Joseph Finlay.
South opens the season Jan. 6 with a nonconference game with Montgomery Central and a matchup with West Stanly two days after that. The Bulls’ conference play begins Jan. 12 with a road trip to North Moore, a team that only managed four wins last season.
Albemarle Bulldogs (Yadkin Valley Conference 1A)
There’s no way around it: last season was a noticeable step back for the Bulldogs (9-15, 7-9), who experienced a drop–off a team that won 14 games the season before. Sixth-year coach Marc Raye, who saw his team’s run of three consecutive winning seasons snapped, will look to right the ship in 2021.
Last year’s team won two of its three final regular season games before being defeated 76-56 by North Stanly (14-12, 10-6 YVC) in the first round of conference playoffs.
The 2020-21 Bulldogs’ two nonconference matchups to start the season are against Covenant Classical (Jan. 7) and Montgomery Central (Jan. 8) before squaring off in two conference road tests versus Uwharrie Charter Academy (Jan. 15) and South Stanly (Jan. 22).
Gray Stone Day Knights (Yadkin Valley Conference 1A)
With an overall record of 1-18 last season, the Knights are still chasing their elusive first winning season in the YVC.
The 2018-19 Gray Stone squad (5-19, 3-13 YVC) had made some improvements over previous seasons, but a lack of experience in the lineup last year inevitably saw the Knights struggle against the more seasoned rosters in their conference.
As it currently stands, sixth-year coach Joel Childrey and the Knights have a narrowed schedule compared to the rest of the teams in the YVC. Gray Stone’s season-opening game will be a road trip to North Stanly on Jan. 15 and the Knights will follow that up with their home opener a week later against Chatham Central.