Girls basketball will tip-off this week for what should be an exciting season in Chatham County.
For the first time, all four Chatham County Schools programs will compete in the same conference. Northwood hosted a basketball media day Saturday with itself, Seaforth, Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Central where head coaches and two players from each team shared their respective expectations going into this season.
Last season, Seaforth found the most success out of the now Mid-Carolina 1A/2A teams, finishing as the 2A state runner-up. Chatham Central fell in the third round of the 1A playoffs while Northwood made it to the second round.
In the Central Tar Heel 1A conference, Chatham Charter also finished as a state-runner up. Woods Charter and Jordan-Matthews were the only teams that missed the playoffs last year.
With teams returning players from state-title appearances and deep playoff runs, here’s a preview of each Chatham squad ahead of the 2023-24 season.
Despite returning many players from last year’s 23-5 campaign, this season will be quite the adjustment for Northwood as it will play Chatham County opponents it hadn’t seen often in the past.
Other than some tough 3A and 4A opponents, the Chargers will have some highly competitive conference games this year, especially against their now-conference rivals, Seaforth. Head coach Kerri Snipes said being mentally tough will be key for the schedule changes and for when they’ll have to play tough teams more than once.
From a strictly basketball standpoint, Northwood wants to play at a controlled, fast pace with an emphasis on running the floor and getting buckets in transition.
Senior Skylar Adams and Junior Natalia Whitaker emphasized how the team is focused on having high energy and great chemistry this season. A few practices in, Whitaker has noticed how in-sync the team is, and Snipes can tell that her players are really excited to be playing together.
“I feel like the energy is really good this year,” Whitaker said. “Everyone is coming in on the same page. Every practice, we’re giving it our all. We’re just being the best we can right now. I think we’re doing good with communication and keeping each other uplifted.”
Northwood will open its season at C.E. Jordan on Nov. 21. at 5 p.m.
The Hawks have a promising season ahead of them, returning just about everyone from last year’s state runner-up team, including junior Gabby White, who averaged 15.5 points and 10 rebounds last winter.
However, it’s a tough task to return to the state title game after failing to raise the trophy the year prior. Head coach Charles Byrd knows that a lot can happen between now and March, so for now, he just wants his team to focus on itself and not the future.
“The biggest thing is being one percent better every day,” Byrd said. “And compounding that over and over and over again. Wherever the chips fall are where the chips fall.”
Seaforth looks to play as a team-oriented squad this year, which means playing on a string defensively and moving the ball around for the best shot offensively.
Junior Peyton Collins said the Hawks will also play at a fast pace while also slowing down opponents and controlling the game on the defensive end.
Byrd and his players want the team to be at “level 5,” the highest level of former NBA coach Phil Jackson’s “Tribal Leadership.”
“Level 5 is where we aren’t really competing against other teams,” Byrd said. “We’re competing against ourselves and trying to produce the best product we can each and every night.”
Seaforth will open its season against East Chapel Hill on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m.
With new head coach Aedrin Albright taking over for her predecessor, Lynda Burke, the key word for Chatham Central this season is confidence.
Albright knows her team isn’t the tallest or the fastest, but many of her players have played together for a while and are no strangers to tough competition in the Mid-Carolina 1A/2A conference.
She feels that the team’s belief in itself coupled with its solid chemistry and should make for an exciting year at Chatham Central.
Last season, the Bears finished 17-10 overall with two playoff wins. This year, they’re looking to turning it up a notch, especially with senior Katherine Gaines expecting to “dominate” the conference.
Albright wants her team to play with a high basketball IQ and sound fundamentals to make up for what they’re lacking in size and athleticism.
“People are going to look at us like, ‘Oh, we’re going to run over them,’” Albright said. “But, I don’t have that expectation…We’re go-getters.”
Chatham Central will open its season against Cedar Ridge on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.
Jordan-Matthews is coming off one of its worst seasons in program history, yet many of the players suiting up for the Jets last season were young and inexperienced.
The Jets will be bringing back the majority of last year’s roster which now has a year of varsity action under its belt. Head coach Lamont Piggie said the key to turning things around now is coming together and building chemistry.
According to senior Lia Carter, the team is already taking the necessary steps towards that goal in its first few practices.
“The connection this year is better than any year I’ve played,” Carter said. “If you can bond with your teammate, you can do anything you want to do.”
The Jets have also brought in a talented freshman in Jada Scott who has the necessary size to help on the boards and capitalize on easy looks at the rim.
Jordan-Matthews will look to prioritize defense and create offense from turnovers. Piggie said his team’s intention offensively is to run up and down the court and get quick buckets before defenses can get set.
Jordan-Matthews will open its season against River Mill on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m.
Coming off a state-title appearance, Chatham Charter is keeping its expectations high going into the new season.
Head coach Jeffery Patterson is expecting his squad to come out on top in the Central Tar Heel 1A conference and earn a favorable seed in the state playoffs.
The Knights are returning many players from last year’s squad including two of its top scorers, seniors Delana Loflin and Meah Brooks.
Brooks, a forward, averaged 14.2 points and 7.3 rebounds a game last season.
Patterson also highlighted freshman guard Hannah Headen as a player to look out for this coming year.
Chatham Charter opened its season Monday at Bethany.
Woods Charter didn’t have an ideal 2022-23 season, but the Wolves are returning a few players from last year whose experience can be an asset to the team.
One of them is Caroline Mitchell who scored 15.1 points per game last season.
She’ll look to lead the Wolves again as they battle for the conference title and a playoff berth.
Woods Charter began its season Monday against Franklin Academy.
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