Although last season’s 3A state champion, Concord Academy (formerly Concord Fist Assembly) was arguably the best team across private school basketball, this year’s field was wide-open. On one hand, Gaston Christian has been battle-tested and fought against some of the best competition throughout their season. Will Kelly has largely carried their offensive attack, showing the ability to score the ball at a productive rate while being efficient from all areas. The tough, heady Greg Brockington adds another reliable scoring option with quickness and the ability to initiate offense. Beyond the duo, guys like Derek Bradley, Joe Rhyne, Brenton Elliott, and Cody Chapman make up most of their active rotation. Although Chapman is the only senior on the roster, Gaston Christian has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with any opponent.

Meanwhile, Asheville Christian has become somewhat of a staple in maintaining relevance throughout their 15-plus seasons under Andy Ray. Most recently known for the ascension of Caleb Mills, the Lions have changed a lot in the three full seasons since his departure. However, they’ve still found success behind returning veterans like Collin Mills, Kavan Horton, and Tre’lin Harper. Add in Max Rogers and later Deante Green, and the appeal should be fairly obvious for this group. From afar, it seems like they’ve worked out all the kinks and figured out how to properly utilize all of their pieces. Asheville Christian has won their last five games, including notable playoff matchups against the likes of Asheville School, Concord Academy, and first-seeded High Point Christian. Expect a dogfight to take place and a deserving winner to emerge.