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By CHRIS HOBBS
Things to watch as we approach the final two weeks of the varsity boys’ basketball regular season in the South Fork 2A, Northwestern Foothills 2A and Northwestern 3A-4A:
SOUTH FORK 2A
Opportunity knocks for the Red Devils
Newton-Conover (14-6, 8-2) is fighting for a league title— it would be the Red Devils’ first since 2013-14 and its seventh in 42 years – in head coach Matt Wilkinson’s fifth season in Newton.
Newton-Conover meets first-place Lake Norman Charter (14-5, 9-1) on Tuesday in Newton and goes to North Lincoln (11-7, 6-4) on Friday.
With a win, the Red Devils reach 15 for the 21st time since 1978-79. They last won 20 or more in 2013-14 (23-6), and their biggest winner was under head coach Jerry Willard in 1988-89 (his first year as boys’ head coach) with a 27-3 record. That team lost to Bunker Hill in the West 2A Regionals.
East Lincoln battling for fifth title in 6 years
East Lincoln (16-4, 8-2) is four wins away from its third straight 20-win season and its seventh in eight years.
The Mustangs are at Bandys (7-13, 2-8) on Tuesday and face Maiden (7-13, 3-7) at East Lincoln on Friday.
In the previous 42 seasons, the Mustangs won 20 or more games 10 times.
East Lincoln has won two straight conference titles, four in five seasons and seven since 1978-79.
Current head coach Jon Hancock has won the last two league titles and Neil Hodges won five, including the first in 2006-07. Prior to that, the Musatangs’ best conference finish was four second places (one by John Stiver, one and share of another by Chip Ashley and one by Chris Matile).
Anderson, Spartans remain in chase
South Caldwell (6-11, 4-3), in Danny Anderson’s first season as head coach there, is battling to finish in the top three in the conference.
The Spartans currently share third place with Alexander Central and, more importantly, they are ahead of McDowell (the other 4A school in the league) in a chase for a state playoff bid.
South Caldwell is home Tuesday against Freedom (18-1, 7-1), goes to Hickory (15-4, 5-3) on Wednesday for a makeup game, and battles McDowell (8-10, 3-5) on the road on Friday.
The Spartans have not finished higher than third in their conference since 1988-89 when head coach Fred Lanford guided a 17-9 team to second in the Northwestern 4A.
Since opening in the late 1970s, South Caldwell has had only 15 boys’ varsity teams win 10 or more games.
The Spartans were 1-23 last season.
NORTHWESTERN FOOTHILLS 2A
Panthers’ Keller has 150 Hibriten wins
Hibriten (17-2, 9-1) has delivered head coach Chad Keller his 150th win with the Panthers (in two tenures).
Keller, who was a starter at East Tennessee State, is three wins shy of 175 for his 13-year career.
The Panthers are at home Tuesday against Patton and on Friday against Fred T. Foard.
This is the ninth boys’ varsity team at Hibriten (since 1977-78) to reach 17 wins, and it has a chance to become the fifth 20-game winner in that same time frame.
Patton could post at least second-best win total
Patton (14-5, 8-2) has a key game Tuesday at Hibriten (17-2, 9-1) and goes to East Burke (10-10, 6-4) on Friday.
The Panthers have won 120 games in nine seasons under head coach Dennis Brittain, and if they get another win they’ll tie for second-most wins in a season in school history.
Patton has two previous 15-win seasons, including 15-13 last season, and its best record since opening (2008-09) is 21-7 two years ago. That team got to the third round before falling to Mountain Heritage.
Ramsey has Cavs playing better this year
The Cavs have reached 10 wins for the 27th time in school history and have already improved on their win total of the past two seasons (8-42).