High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: Kennedy Meeks

After games on Sunday, March 11

An upset, comeback and dynasty. That's what we're left with after crowning the state champions this past weekend at the Dean Dome.

In Class 4A, defending champ West Charlotte's bid at a repeat fell short against an undersized but upstart New Hanover squad. Kadeem Allen, who transferred from Laney this year, was huge with 21 points and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter that have the Wildcats the lead for good.

In Class 3A, Hickory couldn't hold on to its early lead against Rocky Mount, which surged ahead for the title. The Gryphons were led by double-doubles from Dante Battle (20 points, 16 boards) and Terrill Hilliard (21 points, 11 rebounds).

In Class 2A, Kinston conjured up talk of a dynasty by winning its eighth title overall and third crown in the last five years. Cuthberston nearly pushed the game to overtime, but a last-second 3-pointer missed, giving the Vikings a 58-55 win.

That'll do it for the North Carolina basketball rankings in what was an eventful season. Stay tuned for NICSAA 3A champ Ravenscroft in the ESPNHS NHSI tournament starting March 31 in Maryland.

Here are the final rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. New Hanover (Wilmington) 30-1 (3)
Wildcats knocked off defending 4A champ West Charlotte to win the crown behind game MVP Kadeem Allen's 21 points.

2. Ravenscroft 31-3 (2)
Ravens were selected to play in the ESPNHS NHSI tournament in Maryland on March 28-31.

3. West Charlotte 27-6 (1)
Lions couldn't repeat as 4A champs, falling to New Hanover despite getting 14 points and 21 rebounds from Kennedy Meeks.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly North Carolina hoops rankings.

Top 10 Stories of the Year in North Carolina

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
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The year 2011 is winding down to a close and what a year it's been in sports. Here are the top 10 stories from the North Carolina high school sports scene:

10. Tragedy Strikes Twice
Unfortunately, sports is sometimes not about victory and triumph but loss and tragedy. So was the case in August, when Williams High QB Harry Cohen died from an accidental overdose just days after leading his team to victory, and in December, when Alleghany wrestler Luke Hampton was paralyzed during a match just days after earning the state's top ranking in Class 1A at 182 pounds. Our prayers go out to both families.

9. Stuntin' Like My Daddy
You could say it's in the genes and then some when it comes to Dillon Maples. A year after breaking his father's school record of 17 strikeouts by one, the Pinecrest senior tied his own mark with 18 Ks. Maples finished the year with a 9-1 record, 143 strikeouts and a 0.92 ERA. Similiar to his father, Tim, who was picked by the Orioles, the Cubs selected Dillon in the 14th round of the MLB Draft. Maples initially enrolled at UNC, but in August, he agreed to a deal with the Cubs that included a $2.5 million signing bonus.

8. Cardinal Rule
Cardinal Gibbons dethroned two-time defending Class 3A champ Chapel Hill this past fall by the smallest of margins — one point. The Crusaders placed five runners in the top 20, including individual champion Steven Phillips, who clocked a time of 15:49.

7. Last Hope
Midway through the season, Green Hope soccer coach Andrew Chadwick surprised his team by announcing he would retire at the end of the year. The Falcons made sure their coach ended on a good note by winning the Class 4A title in a 2-1 overtime thriller against Myers Park.

6. West is the Best
In 2010, West Charlotte blew a lead and lost in the state semifinals. They made sure the same didn’t happen last year, breezing through the state tourney before letting the one they call Big Baby take over in the title game. Kennedy Meeks recorded 12 points, nine blocks and 19 rebounds (the fourth most in championship game history) to earn MVP honors.

5. New Faces Reach New Places
This past football season saw some unusual suspects claim state crowns. Scotland won its first ever state title by going 15-0 en route to the Class 4A crown and Havelock dethroned three-time defending Class 3A champ West Rowan.

4. Golden Graham
Thomas Graham painted the picture of dominance during his prep career, winning four straight NCISSA 3A state cross country championships. Graham also held his own on the national scene by copping ninth at the Foot Locker Nationals and 15th in the final DyeStat rankings.

3. A Page Out of History
Despite entering the postseason undefeated and as a top seed, Greensboro Page had quite the tough road to the Class 4AA title. That didn't faze the Pirates, who knocked off two-time defending champ Butler and season-long favorite Mallard Creek in consecutive weeks before beating Garner in the 4AA championship.

2. Purvis Picks 'Pack
Earlier this year, Rodney Purvis was headed to Louisville, which rested in the same Blue Grass State that another top NC recruit by the name of John Wall played his college ball. But an assistant coaching shake-up led Purvis to decommit in May. After months of thinking, the Upper Room Christian senior guard decided to stay in his backyard and play for N.C. State.

1. Top Dog
On Dec. 6, Keith Marshall went to sleep a Clemson Tiger but woke up a Georgia Bulldog. After narrowing his choices, the speedy Millbrook tailback and the nation's sixth-best recruit decided on his childhood favorite team of Georgia, where he plans to enroll in January.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter@brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

West Charlotte looks to repeat on the hardwood

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
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This story originally appeared in the Holiday issue of ESPNHS magazine’s North Carolina edition. West Charlotte opened the season Tuesday with a 79-54 win against West Mecklenburg.

Coach Baronton Terry calls it simply a matter of “peaking at the right time.” Some say they had it all along. But no matter what you label it, one thing became clear last season when the West Charlotte Lions won the Class 4A title: They were just getting started.

In 2009-10, the Lions blew a lead and lost in the state semifinals. They made sure the same didn’t happen last year, breezing through the state tourney before letting the one they call Big Baby take over in the title game. Kennedy Meeks recorded 12 points, nine blocks and 19 rebounds (the fourth most in championship game history) to earn MVP honors. As for this season? Well, let’s hear it from the coach himself.

“We return 13 kids off the state championship team. And not only do they return, I know they all got better,” says Terry, who is entering his fourth year as coach. “My job is a lot easier because I don’t have to convince them of what it takes.”

Part of what it takes — talent — lies in guys like Meeks, a junior ranked No. 29 in the ESPNU 60, as well as forwards Mike Brown and Juwan Byers, who missed part of last season with a shoulder injury.

Another part is grit, and with a tough schedule ahead, the Lions should be battle-tested. Along with playing in the tough I-MECK conference, the champs will mix it up at the Chick-fil-A Classic with several POWERADE FAB 50 schools, including United Faith Christian and Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).

“Everybody wants to beat us now, so it’s going to be tough,” Terry admits. “But it’ll be rewarding to watch them grow and develop. My main concern is playing in March.”

Of course, that’s when the state title game rolls around. And if the past is any indicator, it’s also when this talented bunch will begin to peak for another title run.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

United Faith Christian earns top spot in NC preseason hoops rankings

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
12:18
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Last year, a broken hand forced Braxton Ogbueze to miss the first two months of United Faith Christian's season. The campaign ended with the Falcons losing in the NCISAA 1A final for the first time in three years.

Mix that motivation with a full season for Ogbueze and you see why the Falcons are our top preseason team in North Carolina and No. 30 in the POWERADE FAB 50 rankings.

Not far behind, though, is West Charlotte, the defending 4A champs who return 13 players this year. That bunch includes junior center Kennedy Meeks, who dominated last season's tournament and has college coaches drooling.

Stay tuned for more in the ESPNHS holiday/basketball issue, but for now, let these rankings hold you over:

1. United Faith Christian (Charlotte)
2. West Charlotte
3. Charlotte Christian

Click here for the full POWERADE preseason North Carolina basketball rankings

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