INDIAN TRAIL – The Sun Valley boys basketball team won six of seven entering their matchup with rival Cuthbertson on Jan. 21 to position themselves right in the thick of the Southern Carolinas race.
With seniors abound and balanced scoring helping to pave the way, the Spartans improved to 11-7 overall and 4-3 in the league with a 71-46 beatdown of Marvin Ridge on Jan. 17.
The Spartans are led by senior Justin Morton (14.2 points and 3.2 assists), but have four players averaging double figures including fellow seniors Raheem Howard (12.4 points), Michael Grovnaz (10.2 points) and Taeshaun Walker (10.0 points).
Senior Malachi Clyburn (3.8 points) rounds out the starting lineup with seniors Joe Flucus (2.9 points) and Isaiah Threatt (2.4 points) contributing nightly.
The upcoming two-week stretch with Cuthbertson, Weddington and Charlotte Catholic is a tough one that will decide how the Spartans fare.
An interesting note on their season: The Spartans are just 4-5 in games decided by less than 10 points, but they have played in just as many blowouts with the Spartans going 7-2 in instances where the score is 10 points or more either way.
Since Dec. 6, the Spartans are 8-3 overall, but only one game – a six-point loss to conference leader Weddington – has been decided by 10 or fewer points out of those 11.
Here’s how other teams fared through Jan. 20:
Sun Valley girls
While the Sun Valley boys are peaking, the Spartan girls are headed in the other direction with losses in six of their seven conference games this season, a 4-11 overall record and losses in each of the previous four games.
The Spartans are facing a tough stretch with conference leader Cuthbertson, Weddington and Charlotte Catholic, who are all in the mix for the conference title, all looming in the near future.
There have been some bright spots, starting with junior Jalynn Carter and freshman Jade Clowney.
Porter Ridge boys
The Porter Ridge boys (9-7 overall, 3-3 Southwestern 4A) are young and full of promise. With one of the city’s best point guards, the Pirates are knocking on the door.
Junior Marcus Willis (19.0 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals) is in an elite class of playmakers.
Sophomore Isaiah Williams (10.8 points), freshman Dilen Miller (10.2 points) and sophomore Aaron Hough (8.7 points) form the nucleus of a team that is on the rise.
Porter Ridge girls
The Porter Ridge girls (5-10 overall, 2-4 conference) are winning the games they should although they are improving.
Freshman Jyana Salton has been a big bright spot for the Pirates, as she leads the team with 13.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game.
Porter Ridge has winnable games against Garinger, East Meck and Rocky River, but the Pirates will have to play conference heavyweights of Butler, Myers Park, Independence and Hickory Ridge as well.
The Metrolina boys basketball team has won two straight in the Metrolina Athletics Conference, but at 11-13 overall and 4-5 in conference, they are on the outside looking up at Concord First Assembly, which has a state championship-type team.
The Warriors have their own stars in senior Drew Patterson (13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists) and junior Camden Johnson (13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.1 steals). They should make the ultra-competitive playoff field but will need to get hot to do much damage there.
The Metrolina Christian girls team’s 9-10 overall record doesn’t tell the whole story as the Warriors are 6-2 in MAC play and just two games back of undefeated Concord First Assembly.
The Warriors had to figure some things out as they started the season with a 1-7 record but have rebounded to win eight of the next 11 games.
The Warriors play just three upperclassmen among their top nine girls, leaving five freshmen and two sophomores in the mix.
Junior Emily Walters leads the team with 12.1 points per game, but its youth, exuberance and good play of late have them looking to continue their late push into the playoffs.