NEW LONDON — A year after winning the Yadkin Valley Conference title for the first time since the 2017-18 season, the North Stanly boys’ basketball team has its sights on becoming back-to-back champions.
While a repeat of last season’s 8-0 undefeated conference record is off the table, the Comets (9-5, 4-1 Yadkin Valley) are still near the top of the standings. The team is currently halfway through a 10-day break in its schedule dating back to its 73-53 victory at Albemarle (6-6, 1-2 YVC) on Jan. 7.
“We improved a lot over the holidays and the two-week break that we had — the kids really got better. They worked hard in some areas that we weren’t very good in, so I think it paid off,” said second-year North Stanly coach George Walker, attributing much of his team’s growth to its defensive efforts. “Our defense has allowed us to get a lot of easy shots, so we’ve been able to get out in transition and shoot a lot of layups and uncontested jump shots. I think the numbers that we’re putting up are more attributed to our defense than our offense.”
In late December, North Stanly came just a few points shy of winning the Comet Christmas Classic that it hosted, ultimately losing 69-66 to Concord (12-2, 4-1 South Piedmont) in the championship game. Two Comets seniors — Clay Hatley and Dyson Bell — were named to the All-Tournament for their efforts in the holiday event.
The Comets have won five of their past six games and hold the second-place spot in the YVC standings behind newcomer Robinson (11-2, 3-0), which handed North Stanly its only conference loss, 67-42, on Dec. 10.
While a rematch between those two teams is set for Jan. 21, the Comets will first challenge the West Stanly Colts (6-6, 1-1 Rocky River) and Union Academy Cardinals (4-11, 2-1 YVC). The Comets and Cardinals have not met yet this year, but the Comets and Colts squared off on Dec. 1 when West Stanly came out on top with a 56-50 win.
Walker said that the rematch against the Colts will put his roster’s recent improvement to the test: “Against [West Stanly coach John Thompson’s] team, we’re just going to have to grind it out because they’re always going to be good defensively and shoot very well. We have to keep them off the 3-point line and be able to score some five-on-five baskets, which they make very tough.”
That contest is set for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off in Oakboro on Jan. 17.