The first round of the NCHSAA Basketball Playoffs has concluded, and 32 teams in each division are one step closer to the state championship.
Of the six county teams to make the playoffs, four advanced to the second round: two 1A women’s teams, one 1A men’s team, and one 2A women’s team.
Here’s a look at how each team got to this point and what their next obstacles are.
1A WOMEN: MOUNT AIRY (1) VS. ALLEGHANY (17)
The NCHSAA instituted a new rule this year that gave certain teams in 1A and 4A a first-round bye. As the top seed in the 1A West, Mount Airy was given a golden ticket to the second round.
The Lady Bears (22-2, 10-0) are the defending state champions and are poised to go the distance once again if they can keep playing at such a high level.
Coach Angela Mayfield’s team has been near unstoppable this season. The Bears’ lone two losses came at the hands of West Forsyth, a team that is the West’s 3-seed in 4A.
Mount Airy finished the season with 14 straight wins. The most recent was a 30-point victory in the Northwest 1A Conference championship game.
Each of the Bears’ 22 wins have been by double-digits, 15 have been by at least 20 points, 12 by at least 30 points, four by at least 40 points, and two by 50 points or more.
The Bears talent is spread across their roster. Asherah Smith, the NW1A Tournament MVP, leads the Bears with 17.5 points per game. Jo Snow is the distributor for the Bears, averaging 4.1 assists. Shaunae Sawyers’ sticky fingers grabbed 3.3 steals, while Arry Ward leads the team in both rebounding (5.1) and blocks (1.8).
The Alleghany Trojans (18-10) have their work cut out for them when they face Mount Airy on Thursday.
The two teams have eight common opponents. Forbush and Pulaski County both defeated Alleghany, while Mount Airy went a perfect 8-0 against common opponents.
Alleghany finished third in the Mountain Valley Conference with a record of 9-5. The Trojans defeated 16-seeded South Davidson 51-48 in the first round.
Trojan Alexis Hoppers leads the team in points (13.8), rebounds (8.2), and blocks (1.2). Haley Rife is the team leader in assists with 1.8 and steals with 2.3 per game.
EAST SURRY (19) VS. MURPHY (3)
East Surry ended its three-game skid with a statement win in the first round of the playoffs.
The 19-seed Cardinals (14-2, 7-3) defeated 14-seed Pine Lake Preparatory Academy (18-9, 10-2) 49-19 to advance.
Pine Lake had won six games in a row before falling to Community School of Davidson in PAC-7 Conference Tournament. Things went from bad to worse when the Pride were bulldozed on their home court just six days later by the Lady Cards.
Cardinal Bethany Clayton, the team’s leading scorer that averages 15.8 points, dropped 23 points on 64 percent shooting in East Surry’s victory. Clayton is also the team leader in rebounds (11.2), assists (4.7), and blocks (1.2).
Dasia Lambert holds the title for steals per game with 2.2.
The Cards will face Murphy (24-2, 11-1) in the second round. Murphy had a first-round bye and their most recent game was a 62-55 victory over Cherokee for the Smoky Mountain Conference Championship.
The Bulldogs are undefeated at home due in large part to the double-double machine that is Jessica Beckner. The 6’3” senior, who signed with NCAA Division II Young Harris College last fall, averages 16.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks.
Another threat for Murphy is guard Aubrey Clapsaddle, who averages 4.0 assists and 3.1 steals to go along with her 13.1 points.
The Bulldogs average more than 60 PPG, almost eight more than East Surry. Murphy also has higher numbers for rebounds, assists, and steals.
A win by East Surry sets up a potential rematch with conference foe Bishop McGuinness in the next round.
1A MEN – MOUNT AIRY (16) VS. WINSTON-SALEM PREP (1)
The trilogy of Mount Airy (17-8, 6-4) versus Winston-Salem Prep (22-3, 10-0) has now added another chapter, this time in the second round of the state playoffs.
Prep capped off its undefeated season with a 93-82 victory over the Granite Bears in the conference championship game. Now, Mount Airy seeks retribution for last week’s defeat as well as both meetings in the regular season.
It was an instant classic every time the Phoenix and Bears faced off this season, but the results were one-sided. Prep won all three games of the 2017-2018 season, twice by 11 points and once by just two.
Mount Airy made it to the second round by defeating another familiar face, Bishop McGuinness, 54-51 in the opening round.
Prep has been ranked the top 1A team in the state in large part due to the team’s ability to score in volumes. Mount Airy coach Levi Goins said Tuesday that his team needs to limit Prep’s big runs in order to upset the Phoenix.
The key proponent of the Phoenix offense has been guard Daivien Williamson. Williamson was named the NW1A Player of the Year following the team’s championship victory. Williamson averages a team-high 22.8 points, as well as 2.4 assists, and 5.4 rebounds.
Williamson has led the Phoenix in scoring in two of the three previous match-ups, including a 39-point performance on February 2.
Rounding out the Phoenix’s category leaders are Zack Austin in both rebounds (7.2) and blocks (2.2) and Justice Goodloe in assists (7.3) and steals (2.8).
Mount Airy’s Caleb Arrington has been the driving scoring force for the Bears, averaging a team-high 17.7 points. Three other Bears, Ryan Graham, Gregory Greene, and Donavon Greene, average more than 10 points per game.
Forward Donavon Greene leads the team in rebounds with 10.0, enough for a double-double average to go along with his 15.9 PPG. Donavon also leads the team with an average 2.5 blocks.
2A WOMEN – NORTH SURRY (20) VS. EAST BURKE (4)
North Surry (16-12, 7-5) embraced its role as underdog in the WPAC Tournament and emerged victorious as a 3-seed. Now, the Greyhounds look to experience the same Cinderella run as the 20 seed in the 2A state playoffs.
The Lady Hounds’ first round victory over 13-seeded Salisbury was the team’s ninth victory in its last 10 games. Led by Mikaela Johnson’s 14.9 points and 10.6 rebounds, the Hounds hope to pull another huge upset over the fourth-ranked East Burke.
The East Burke Cavaliers (26-1, 12-0) breezed through the Northwestern Foothills Conference. The Cavs average nearly 70 PPG behind sophomore standout Josie Hise.
Hise is the team’s top scorer with 16.9 PPG, as well as 4.8 rebounds, and 2.9 steals.
East Burke has outscored opponents 1,811 to 1,000 this season. With the exception of the Cavs’ 60-54 loss to Asheville Christian Academy in December, none of East Burke’s regular-season opponents scored within single digits of the team.
The Cavaliers are a perfect 10-0 at home and put that streak on the line against a North Surry team that is hitting its stride at the right time.
The winner of the game will face the winner of the fifth seed East Davidson and the 21 seed Wilkes Central. A win by both North Surry and Wilkes Central would give the Greyhounds home-court advantage for the first time in the playoffs.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith