Coming into the season, 4A East was penciled in as the most wide-open region in the state. For a time, there seemed to be anywhere from 10-15 teams who could legitimately make a deep run, with 5-8 of those having a serious claim as the best team in the region. However, as we pass the two-thirds mark of the season and resumes are almost fully formed, there is one team that has done the best job of elevating themselves in both the computer rankings and the eye test, that team being the Wildcats of New Hanover.

In the past few years, the Wildcats have consistently been one of the top few teams in 4A East but haven’t been able to break through, as their deepest run has ended in the region semis. To combat this, Coach Angel and his staff scheduled one of the most daunting non-conference slates they’ve played in a while. They’ve beaten Millbrook, Clayton, Panther Creek, GRACE Christian, Cardinal Gibbons, Wayne Country Day, Holly Springs, Washington, and Coastal Christian in the non-conference with a matchup against Kinston slated for this Saturday. It’s tempting to argue that no team in 4A East has been more successful against as difficult of a schedule as New Hanover. Only Millbrook and Richmond have played a schedule that can rival theirs and they have a combined 11 losses between them.

While sitting undefeated with their schedule is impressive, it’s how they’re winning that makes them so intriguing. They’ve dismantled most of their competition, never relinquishing control and attempting to prove a point with every outing. Their margin of victory is 23.9 PPG, which, given their SOS, is evidence of the aforementioned dominance. In the few games they haven’t dominated, they’ve proven they can grind out wins. They completed a late comeback against Clayton, finishing on a 14-0 run to clinch the win in a game where only two Wildcats made multiple field goals. They were also able to hold off a late push from Millbrook, making clutch free throws and defensive stops consistently.

They play an aggressive and unselfish style, never allowing opponents to settle in or feel truly comfortable on either end of the floor. While Rodmik Allen has been their go-to guy this season, their entire starting five can be their best player on any given night. Allen has been electric in every facet this year, improving his efficiency and decision-making since last year and establishing himself as one of the best guards in the region. He’s dynamic, uber-confident, and virtually impossible to contain off the bounce. He’s averaging 17.7p, 4.7r, 5.5a, & 2.9s per game with shooting splits of 47/35/66. His backcourt partner, 5’11” Jr. Zeus Batts, has proven himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the region as he’s able to consistently make high-level guards uncomfortable with his physicality and motor. He’s also quite the playmaker when he needs to be.

Around them, 6’5″ Jr. Nolan Billings has established himself as a high-level “glue guy”, averaging 12.6p, 7.3r, 1.7a, 1.9s, & 0.9b per game while shooting 57% from the field. He plays with a relentless motor and a high feel, outworking bigger opponents on both ends while being able to initiate offense himself when need be. Hoggard transfers CJ Kornegay (6’6″ Jr.) and Parker Crittenden (6’3″ Sr.) have integrated themselves nicely. Kornegay has been a strong transition threat and play finisher, posting averages of 11.8p, 4.8r, & 1.5a while shooting 66% from the field. Crittenden has lived up to his reputation as a shooter, posting averages of 8.1p, 1.7r, & 0.9s while shooting 37% (21/57) from three. His most notable performance came in their win over Millbrook, where he poured in 18 points on 4 threes.

Off the bench, the Wildcats are led by Kellum Brown (6’3″ So.), Ja’Zir Wright-McGhee (6’1″ Fr.), and Kam Witherspoon (6’5″ Fr.). Brown is a lanky wing with intriguing physical tools. While he’s struggled shooting the ball at times this year, he has strong mechanics and the ability to get hot quickly. Wright-McGhee is one of the best 2027 guards in the state that most people have never heard of. He impacts winning in a multitude of ways, specifically with his decision-making and defensive prowess. Witherspoon is another under-the-radar name in the 2027 class. He has great size, good hands, and he runs the floor well. All three of these guys will be key pieces of the program later down the line, but for now, they’re anchoring the best New Hanover squad since their 2012 state championship.