Takeaways from week one of HS hoops season

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After seeing the Southern Wayne boys play multiple times last week, all I have to say is wow.

Jamari Leach is looking like the best player in the county on the best team in the county right now dropping 26.3 points per game in the first three games, his high came in the 101-95 game against Goldsboro where he dropped 34. Tyrese Artis had 24 in the Spring Creek overtime win and Belinda Carson who had 23 on 70% shooting could be one of the best female players in the county if she realizes it.

Alissa Meadows for Southern Wayne is a baller and I like her game a lot. She’s averaging 13 points for the Saints. If she can be more consistent of an attacker along with Aleesha Boyette, the Saints’ younger players can fit into the offense a little more. If Meadows steps up and becomes more of an on-the-court leader, she could have a special season.

Those are just some individual standouts, but we all know it is about the team and that is what this column is aimed towards.

I was impressed by the Spring Creek girls even though I didn’t watch them nor did they win. I watched the Spring Creek girl’s team probably closer than anyone last season. Part of that is because of my fondness of coach Charlie Cotton. Last season, it didn’t seem like the Spring Creek girls had an identity, they were just playing to play and talking to Cotton this offseason, he assured me that his girls will play hard. I think I wrote in a previous story that the Spring Creek girl’s team didn’t eclipse 40 points but only three times last season, all in blowouts.

I think something is to be said about putting up 45 points in the first game of the season on a team with five out of 10 players being freshmen. Belinda Carson is a solid leader for the Lady Gators and she may have to drop 20 points per game for them to be successful but if Makiya Hobbs and Jordan Surguy can get it going on a consistent basis, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Lady Gators will be a better team than in the past few years. Will they compete in the conference? That remains to be seen, but Cotton is a developer and if the girls buy in, Spring Creek has a bright future that may show sooner than people think.

This might not be allowed but I am a huge fan of the way Southern Wayne is playing ball right now. Honestly, I don’t think that’s a surprise to any of the coaches or people out in the community that see me at games. I root hard for every single team I cover. Talking to people before the season, it was up in the air how Southern Wayne would look after losing both Wright brothers, Jalen Thompson not playing, and Mikhail Pocknett leaving, but have they come out on absolute fire or what? They beat North Lenoir by at least 10 points in both of the first two games and then they go and put up 101 points against Goldsboro, a team that a lot of people think will win their conference.

Of course, Jamari Leach is going to get the shine because he has dropped 79 points in three games, but I think the story behind that story is about the players who compliment him that make Southern Wayne as dangerous as they are right now. A kid that I did not have on my radar at all was Leneir Pocknett. He played on junior varsity last season but in the first three games, he has averaged 12 points. When your two starting guards are dropping 20 plus a night, it pays to have a guy that won’t get much of the defensive attention to be able to consistently hit shots.

Na’Daviyon Pemberton, who also played on junior varsity last year, is averaging 8 points. Southern Wayne isn’t a one-man show and honestly, none of the teams in the coverage area are, but the win against Goldsboro on the road is a huge statement to the mental and physical growth of the Saints. The mental side is what has held them back in recent years, but it seems like the boys are letting their play do the talking and I hope that continues because they could go far if they keep this up.

North Duplin hasn’t suited up yet so far this season and Southern Wayne is the only school to have played multiple games so it is still early. As I write this, I’m excited to see how Spring Creek looks against Princeton on Tuesday, Dec. 3. Princeton’s boy’s team might be the best 1A team in the state but if I know one thing about Spring Creek, they are going to play as hard as possible for 32 minutes. This game will prime the Gators for what is to come in a tricky East Central 2A Conference.

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