INDIAN TRAIL – To find the last time the Sun Valley boys basketball team lost to anyone other than Charlotte Catholic and Weddington – the two top teams in the Southern Carolinas – you’d have to go all the way back to Dec. 10, 2019, in an ugly 52-35 home loss to Cuthbertson.
That loss left the Spartans 4-5 overall, but it also springboarded something pretty big.
“What kind of turned us around was when we played Cuthbertson the first time,” Sun Valley coach Keith Mason said earlier this season. “They handled us pretty good and it was a big punch in the nose, but ever since then it’s kind of woken us up a little bit. Sometimes that’s what it takes.”
The Spartans have been fantastic since, climbing to 9-5 in the conference, securely in third place as they set to battle with Marvin Ridge Feb. 18, after Indian Trail Weekly’s press deadline.
Since that loss to Cuthbertson, the Spartans are 12-4 overall with all four defeats coming at the hands of Weddington and Charlotte Catholic.
Aside from a six-point loss at Weddington in the first meeting, most of the games haven’t been close including a 68-38 loss to Catholic in the team’s last meeting Feb. 4.
But, what has been working has been working well.
Mason was recently honored for his 200th career coaching win, and he’s been getting his senior-heavy team to buy in.
The same five seniors have started every game this year, and four of them have been double-digit scorers sharing the love all year.
Justin Morton (14.7 points) is the team’s leading scorer, but he has plenty of help from Raheem Howard (11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds), Taeshaun Walker (10.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists), Michael Grovanz (10.0 points and 4.1 rebounds) and Malachi Clyburn (4.7 points and 5.6 rebounds). Reserves Isaiah Threatt, Joe Flucus and Jamezz Davis – all seniors – are in the tight rotation that has the Spartnas rolling.
“Right now, we’re taking it one game at a time and we’re focused on whoever we’re playing next. We have to keep it going.”
While the Sun Valley boys are hitting their stride, the Spartans girls team is headed in quite the opposite as a win over Monroe is the only saving grace during a 1-10 stretch they’re riding.
Most recently, the Spartans were beat 54-33 by Piedmont on Feb. 14 as they set to open the Southern Carolinas tournament with top-seeded Charlotte Catholic.
While the record isn’t good, there are some positive signs.
In the loss to Piedmont, the Spartans committed 22 turnovers, 13 of which were by freshmen Payton Kifer and Jade Clowney. However, Kifer had seven points and seven rebounds while Clowney produced four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Freshmen Lindsey Avant and JV call-up Jada Mclaughlin are in the regular rotation and learning on the fly.
Leading scorer Jaylynn Carter (10.6 points) is a junior, and five of the top six scorers on the team will return.
The Spartans (5-20) will not make the postseason, but there is a lot of growth potential for next season.
The Porter Ridge boys (12-12, 6-8 in Southwestern 4A) will open their conference tournament with Butler, who has disappointed at 12-12.
Junior point guard Marcus Willis (20.2 points, 5.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 steals) leads the way for the Pirates along with sophomore Isaiah Williams (11.1 points and 7.0 rebounds), but they are a balanced team with good potential.
The Southwestern 4A is one of the toughest leagues at the top in the state, but the Pirates are on their way.
The Porter Ridge girls (7-16, 4-10 in conference) have had an admirable first season for new coach Angelia James.
The Pirates also have a star in freshman Jyana Salton (13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds). They are also young with freshmen Megan Brandon (6.5 points and 7.7 rebounds) and Payton Oliver (5.5 points) who join sophomores Jada Pickering (4.8 points) and Jenella Olaleye (2.8 points and 2.7 rebounds) as five of the team’s top six scorers.
Although the postseason won’t happen this year, there is talent here.
Metrolina Christian’s seasons came to a close. Camden Johnson hit five 3-pointers and scored 27 points to go with seven rebounds, but the Warriors fell 84-81 to Rabun Gap in the NCISAA 4A tournament’s opening round. They finished 14-18. The Warrior girls finished the season with a 14-15 record after opening the state tournament with a 65-27 loss to Rabun Gap.