ALBEMARLE — Coasting into 2024 on the momentum of a six-game win streak and a 9-1 record, the Albemarle Bulldogs girls’ basketball team can also revel in the success of last week’s Mount Pleasant Holiday Classic tournament championship.
The Bulldogs used a 75-25 opening-round win over the Parkwood Wolf Pack (4-7), a 61-22 second-round win over the Mooresville Blue Devils (3-8) and a 73-60 championship victory over the Sun Valley Spartans (7-6) to sweep the 2023 holiday tournament inside the Mount Pleasant High gym.
As the only 1A team in the field of eight schools, Albemarle seemingly had no issue challenging the bigger schools such as the 3A Wolf Pack, 4A Blue Devils and 4A Spartans.
After the Bulldogs’ 13-point victory over Sun Valley in the final round, star point guard Amari Baldwin was awarded the Tournament Most Valuable Player honor, while forward Bianca Robinson, center Jasmine Brown and Baldwin each made the All-Tournament Team.
Baldwin posted a team-high 29 points in Albemarle’s championship win as Robinson (18 points), Brown (16 points) each added valuable contributions to the Bulldogs’ scoring output; Baldwin also scored a team-best 25 points and 28 points in the two prior Holiday Classic matchups.
Ever since the Bulldogs’ 87-72 road loss to North Rowan (6-3) on Dec. 5 in the fourth game of the season, the team has been on a tear through its schedule, defeating all their opponents by double-digit margins.
As Albemarle opens Yadkin Valley Conference play on Friday at home versus South Stanly (1-7), it can begin to carry its recent fortune into the conference standings where — along with the surging Bulldogs — the undefeated North Stanly Comets (11-0), Union Academy Cardinals (8-1) and Gray Stone Knights (5-4) appear to be the likely YVC frontrunners for the second half of the 2023-24 season.
Albemarle and North Stanly are currently slated to square off in New London in an important matchup on Feb. 13
Last season, the Bulldogs (22-5, 9-1 conf.) narrowly edged out the Comets for the YVC championship, defeating North by six points in a Feb. 17 game that decided the final top-two order of the conference standings. Awarded a No. 4 seed in the NCHSAA 1A state playoff bracket, Albemarle went on to blast the No. 29 Mitchell Mountaineers in a 59-32 blowout win at home in the first round of the tournament.
However, the Bulldogs stumbled in the second round against the No. 13 Robbinsville Black Knights, falling 71-66 in an upset home loss.
Taking into account the postseason lessons of last year and combining them with an experienced roster under coach Eric Davis, Albemarle is once again primed for another strong stretch of play as the Bulldogs look to win the conference again and make a deeper run in the state playoffs.