DENVER – The beginning of high school basketball season is often a mess, with schools like Lincoln Charter that don’t have a football program getting started in early November and other schools that make a deep run in the football playoffs playing without a full roster until early December. Most teams have had time to find their footing once the annual holiday tournaments roll around; however, and conference play ramps up after the new year when high school basketball really kicks into gear.
South Fork 2A Men
The East Lincoln Mustangs are the defending South Fork 2A champions and coach Jon Hancock’s squad, which sports an undefeated record heading into the final weekend of 2018, appears to have a claim as the league’s top team once again.
The Mustangs have been dynamic on offense to this point in the season, averaging nearly 75 points per game on better than 50 percent shooting. East Lincoln is led by Lees McRae signee Sidney Dollar, who does a little bit of everything, averaging nearly 25 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Junior big man Justin Kuthan has provided a strong inside presence for the Mustangs, averaging a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Maiden boasts the conference’s only other undefeated record, including an impressive 5-0 record away from home with close wins over Foard, South Caldwell and South Fork 2A rivals Bandys.
Speaking of Bandys, the Trojans have posted a 4-2 record so far this season, including that heartbreaking loss to Maiden in which Bandys held a lead going into the fourth quarter. Bandys dropped its next game on the road at Patton as well and will enter 2019 looking to snap a mini two-game losing skid.
North Lincoln rounds out the South Fork 2A teams in the Denver Citizen coverage area, and the Knights are off to a slow start, having played just four games this season. North Lincoln dropped its first three games, including a pair of two-point losses to Highland School of Technology, but rebounded by dominating conference foe West Lincoln.
South Fork 2A Women
The league seems to be a bit more wide open on the women’s side without an undefeated team remaining.
The North Lincoln Lady Knights boast the conference’s top winning percentage with a 3-1 overall record. The lone loss; however, came in North Lincoln’s only conference matchup to this point.
The Lady Trojans of Bandys were also impressive during non-conference play, winning four of five games. However, like North Lincoln, Bandys lost its lone game against South Fork 2A competition, falling 53-36 at home against Maiden.
East Lincoln, on the other hand, struggled through a tough non-conference slate to post a 2-5 overall record. Unlike North Lincoln and Bandys, the Lady Mustangs were victorious in conference play, grinding out a 39-32 win on the road against Lake Norman Charter.
Southern Piedmont 1A Men
The Lincoln Charter Eagles have dominated the Southern Piedmont 1A conference in recent years, cruising past the competition en route to four consecutive conference championships.
The league appears to be tougher this year; however, as five of the conference’s six teams, including Lincoln Charter, will enter league play with a winning percentage at or above .750. The Eagles are also replacing three seniors that were instrumental in Lincoln Charter’s recent dominance. But Lincoln Charter’s two returning starters – seniors Jackson Gabriel (21.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists) and Levontae Knox (14.1 points, 8 rebounds, 5.2 assists) – are among the state’s most well-rounded players.
Southern Piedmont 1A Women
The women’s side of the league has been much more competitive in recent years, although Lincoln Charter still enters 2019 as the defending conference champions.
The Lady Eagles have struggled out of the gate this season, posting a 2-6 non-conference record, but the conference as a whole appears to be down this year as not one of the league’s six schools boasted a winning record at Christmas.