We’re unofficially a quarter of the way through the regular season with there being an average of 5.8 games played so far across the 41 public schools. As the sample size gets larger, trends, tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses are forming within each program, allowing us to have a clearer picture of who the contenders are. This is the first week that we start to really take the full body of work into account and evaluate teams on the statewide level. How likely is Team X to compete for a state title? What will prohibit Team X from making a deep playoff run? Despite Team X’s current record, what makes me think they will turn in a positive (or negative) direction? These are all questions that have to be answered when evaluating teams at this point in the season. While results and SOS are more important than they’ve been, the eye test was still the main factor in determining this week’s rankings. I’ve watched a copious amount of basketball this season and have managed to keep a close eye on almost every team in the area so far.
Game of the Week
For the week three game of the week, we decided to split the honor between three big rivalry games. Broughton at Millbrook, Willow Spring at Fuquay-Varina, and SE Raleigh at Enloe. In Millbrook’s win over Broughton, Colt Langdon set a school record with 42 points while the Caps’ Hudson Fitzgerald had his breakout game with 21 points on 7/12 shooting from deep. In Fuquay-Varina’s win over Willow Spring, sophomore Abdou Diop had his breakout game, going for 23p (of his team’s 38), 8r, 3a, & 3 stocks. He had an electric performance, especially for someone who has to (arguably) shoulder more offensive responsibility than anyone in the triangle. Lastly, in Enloe’s win over SE Raleigh, sophomore Juice Coleman hit a game-winning free throw to seal the upset.
For week four’s game of the week, we have two heavyweight battles. First is Knightdale at South Garner on Monday night in what is now a top-10 matchup. The Titans stole last week’s contest on the Knights home floor and Knightdale will be out for revenge. Both teams are athletic, deep, and well-coached. Panther Creek at Green Level is other game of the week as the two favorites in the SWAC meet for the first time. This will be either team’s biggest test of the early season and will tell us a lot about the makeup and toughness of both rosters.
- Green Level (5-0)
Green Level has continued to handle business, with their average margin of victory exceeding 20 points. Izzy Eatman has been electric to start the year, shooting at a high clip and drawing much more attention than opposing defenses were prepared for. Their depth continues to look serviceable with everyone in the rotation playing their role well. They’ve played a relatively weak schedule so far, with Willow Spring being the only team ranked at the time of the game. They have a huge matchup against Panther Creek this week that will hold a lot of weight as their only high-level matchup thus far.
Week 4: @ Apex, @ Panther Creek
- Southern (4-1)
Southern continues to look as dangerous as anyone so far, winning a handful of quality games with just one close loss to a talented Ben L Smith team. Jackson Keith has stepped up consistently, Cam Daniels has been electric when his shots are falling, and their supporting cast is as gritty as anyone in the triangle. They play with a high level of toughness and know how to handle business. They have an intriguing matchup with Hillside this week in a game that can boost either side’s resume. They’ve played one of the toughest schedules of anyone in Tier One and they continue to win it won’t be long before they take over the top spot.
Week 4: vs. Carrboro, vs. Hillside
- Cardinal Gibbons (5-1)
Cardinal Gibbons has still not seen either Aiden Smalls, Chet Yardley, or Will Migdal play a game this season, making it increasingly challenging to get a read on them. Smalls and Yardley should be back this week, with Migdal hopefully returning by the turn of the new year. With these new additions to the rotation, the Crusaders will look even more dangerous and cohesive than they already do. They have a great test against Clayton in the Dexter Cooley Showcase this weekend that should tell us a lot about how good they really are with their full roster.
Week 4: vs. Clayton
- Chapel Hill (6-1)
Chapel Hill continues to run through its schedule, with just one of its six wins coming by fewer than 10 points. Their connectivity and experience are on full display, and they look like they could beat just about anyone right now. David Mirikwe has been a top-five player in the triangle so far and there’s no reason to expect him to slow down anytime soon. They have matchups with Western Alamance and Eastern Alamance this week, having already beaten Eastern earlier in the year. Look for Franklin Johnson to take a step up sooner rather than later, something that would vault the Tigers even higher than they already are.
Week 4: vs. Western Alamance, @ Eastern Alamance
- Millbrook (2-3)
Millbrook is in an interesting position, taking losses to Cannon and GDS while sneaking a win over Garner and needing a school record 42 points from Colt Langdon to comfortably beat Broughton. Langdon has been absolutely lights out to start this season and was the sole reason they were able to sneak out of Garner with the win. He’s making a dark horse case for multiple statewide awards right now and if Millbrook can ascend to the levels they’re used to, he will be squarely in those conversations. The key for the Wildcats is getting the depth to step up consistently. Once they find a consistent stream of production from their support pieces, they’ll be able to compete with anyone on their schedule.
Week 4: vs. Sanderson, vs. New Hanover
- Panther Creek (3-1)
Panther Creek had two huge wins, first blowing out Jordan and then coming out on top of an absolute dogfight against SE Raleigh. They look the part in almost every possible way right now. Chris Uwayo and Logan Ware have been incredible and have propelled the Catamounts to one of the most prolific offenses in the state. They would be comfortably in the top three if not for a loss to Leesville Road when PC was missing two of their top six players. It’s not fair to fully discredit PC for this loss as they were shorthanded, but it did expose what may be their only real weakness, their depth. That will be the challenge for them moving forward, finding guys to fill rotation spots 7-9 effectively. Regardless, they have a huge game against Green Level this week that can boost them back into the top five very quickly.
Week 4: vs. Cary, @ Green Level
- Wakefield (5-0)
Wakefield picked up a resume-boosting win over Sanderson last weekend in the CAP-6/NAC-6 Challenge. This, combined with two convincing wins over Cleveland and Northern, have the Wolverines sitting at a strong 5-0 with some of the best wins in the triangle. The biggest thing to note with this team is their ability to shoot as they’re posting a 38% clip from deep on 22 attempts per game as a team thus far. Syncere Burnette continues to assert himself as arguably the biggest stock riser of the early season, averaging 16p, 6r, 6a, & 3s so far. They have an interesting week four schedule, headlined by home games against Leesville Road and Northern Nash, both of which should be good matchups for them.
Week 4: vs. Wake Prep, vs. Leesville Road, vs. Northern Nash
- South Garner (4-0)
South Garner has been unreal to start the season. Dominating Enloe and Middle Creek and picking up a signature win over Knightdale on the road. So far, there’s been no reason to assume that this hot start cannot be sustained across the entirety of the season but wins over Knightdale and Garner this week would cement that and push them into Tier One. Najai Hines has been the most dominant big in the area and feels like a pretty safe bet to be amongst the state leaders in rebounds (his current 16.5 RPG is good for 2nd in the state and 1st across all NCHSAA & NCISAA schools).
Week 4: vs. Knightdale, vs. Garner
- Knightdale (7-1)
Knightdale continues to look the part after weeks two and three, picking up wins over Leesville Road, Enloe, Cleveland, and Franklinton with their only loss coming to a red-hot South Garner team. That loss is keeping them from joining the first tier at the moment and they have the chance to avenge it on Monday night. They have so many different options on both sides of the ball that it’s hard to imagine them having an off night. Every member of their rotation can get hot at a moment’s notice and can guard at a high level. They have multiple players making their case for an All-Defensive team nod, with Isaiah Green (and his 3.8 SPG) leading the charge.
Week 4: @ South Garner, @ Sanderson, @ East Wake
- Jordan (3-4)
Jordan’s duo of DJ Ross and Zion Wells is up there with any duo in the triangle in terms of production as both are dominating their roles through seven games. Ross is amongst the state leaders in assists while Wells is shooting the absolute cover off the ball. Despite this, Jordan’s lack of size has hurt them so far and how they’re able to adjust defensively against bigger opponents will be critical to them rejoining Tier Two. This week, they have matchups against DSA and Rolesville, both of which should fall in the Falcons favor.
Week 4: vs. Durham School of the Arts, @ Rolesville
- Garner (2-2)
Garner took a gut-wrenching loss to Millbrook in week two. The Trojans simply looked like the better team for the first 27 minutes before a strong Millbrook finish turned the game on its head. They followed that with an ugly win over Middle Creek, making it increasingly hard to get a good read on the Trojans. Keaton Bloms is finally back to full health which should help tremendously in restoring balance to their lineup. They’ve shown good flashes as collective and seem to be just a few steps away from being a very dangerous squad. Their rivalry game against South Garner on Friday will be huge for both conference implications and our rankings.
Week 4: @ South Garner
- Clayton (2-1)
Clayton got a much-needed win over Sanderson this week, putting their first signature win on the board this season. Justice Mitchell has been dominant through their first three games, averaging 23p & 10r as the main interior presence for the Comets. They’ve struggled a bit shooting the ball as a team, sitting at just 27% from three right now. Look for that to change as their high-level shooters get out of their cold spell. Looking forward, the Comets have three tough tests against Pinecrest, Willow Spring, and Cardinal Gibbons. All of which are winnable and all of which are losable. How they fair this week will go a long way in building their resume.
Week 4: @ Pinecrest, vs. Willow Spring, vs. Cardinal Gibbons
- Southeast Raleigh (3-4)
Southeast Raleigh had a tough week, losing close ones to Panther Creek and Enloe before dominating in a big way against Chatham Charter. For the most part, they’ve only lost to high-level teams and have been fairly dominant in games they were “supposed” to win. They’re still in the mix as one of the top teams in the GNRC and have a chance to open conference play on a hot streak with Cleveland, Corinth Holders, and Fuquay-Varina being their first three contests. Christian Ananaba continues to be a big early season stock riser while their deep rotation has held strong so far.
Week 4: @ Cleveland
- Heritage (3-3)
Heritage seems to have gotten over their week one hiccups, turning in a very productive week two and three. With quality wins over Leesville Road, Enloe, and Sanderson, and a close loss to Jordan, they’re quietly building quite the resume. While he missed a couple games due to an ankle injury, Jon Mwanda has been maybe THE breakout player of the season so far. He’s the clear leader for this team and has shown so many different traits that translate well to the next level. Around him, sophomore Ryder Strand had a coming out party against Sanderson, hitting multiple huge threes and finishing with 11p, 6r, & 3s. They have a rematch with Leesville Road this week that should provide high-value information on both teams.
Week 4: vs. Leesville Road, vs. Broughton
- Sanderson (3-3)
The Spartans struggled in weeks two and three, dropping multiple chances for quality wins against Wakefield, Clayton, and Heritage, losing by a combined nine points across the three games. Their big three (Fife, Dalton, Balas) are shooting a combined 41.7% from three (30/72) and have all taken noticeable strides in their games. They’re in need of more role players to step up as Ellison and Pulley are the only ones who’ve outplayed expectations thus far. They have two huge games this week against Knightdale and Millbrook. Winning either would bump them up multiple spots and winning both would cause significant changes throughout the rankings.
Week 4: vs. Knightdale, @ Millbrook
- Southern Wake (4-3)
Southern Wake is in an interesting position being the only 1A school that we cover. They are competing with 4A (and a few 3A) schools in these rankings, making each chance they get at a quality win exponentially more important. They’re 1-3 in games against high-level opponents, making it difficult for them to move up higher than where they are. Regardless, they have a talented, young roster headlined by two very, very good seniors in Chris Crudup and Alex Rechetnikov. Crudup in particular has been dominant in several aspects of the game so far and is making a great case for an All-WakeHoops team.
Week 4: @ TMSA
- Holly Springs (5-1)
Holly Springs has had just about the start they were hoping for, outside of their loss at North Brunswick. Their first signature wins came against Leesville Road and Willow Spring, and they have the chance to get their third against Apex Friendship on Tuesday night. Will James has been a top five player in the triangle through the first quarter of the season, averaging 23p and 6r while shooting a ridiculous 50% from three. Jake Cackovic has been right there next to him, averaging 16p and 10r and playing with more toughness and a higher motor than ever before.
Week 4: vs. Apex Friendship, vs. Green Hope
- Leesville Road (3-3)
Leesville Road has proven to be one of the trickiest teams to put away, with every loss coming in close fashion. They do a great job of keeping their opponent as unstable as possible, constantly throwing different lineups, defenses, and schemes at them. Because of this, Coach Frazier is making a great early case for Coach of the Year. They have two big games this week on the road against Heritage and Wakefield. Winning either would see them move up while winning both would cause a massive shake up in the rankings.
Week 4: @ Heritage, @ Wakefield
- Apex Friendship (5-0)
Apex Friendship squeaked out three tough wins in weeks two and three, with their average margin of victory being just over 5 PPG in those contests. They’re one of the few undefeated teams left and have big SWAC matchups against Holly Springs and Middle Creek this week. Both games have huge conference standing implications (and possible playoff implications as well) as Apex Friendship, Holly Springs, and Middle Creek were picked to finish 3-5 in the preseason. The Patriots have good depth and it’s clear that their guys both understand their roles and prioritize playing as a team over everything else. This cohesiveness makes them pretty tough to beat and should see them snatch a few wins from better teams.
Week 4: @ Holly Springs, vs. Middle Creek
- Riverside (5-2)
Riverside makes their first appearance in the top-20 this season thanks to the four-game win streak they’re currently on. Their only loss in weeks two and three was against Southern while they took down Orange, Wake Forest, Cleveland, Green Hope, and Person, the latter three all coming by double-digits. Corey Hairston has been great to start the year, averaging 18p, 5r, 3a, & 2s while shooting 39% from three. His consistency is vital to Riverside continuing their winning ways, especially in week four as they play Enloe, Rolesville, and Durham Academy.
Week 4: vs. Enloe, vs. Rolesville, @ Durham Academy
Outside Teams to Monitor
The Cougars have been a pleasant surprise to start the year, being one of just five unranked teams with a winning record and nearly pulling off an upset of Pinecrest on the road before falling in overtime. Kody Frey, Adley Calhoun, and Zaelyn White have emerged as a legitimate big three and it looks as though they’re only going to get better as the season goes along.
Week 4: vs. Green Level, @ Cary
Enloe has played a brutally tough schedule to start the season and picked up a nice rivalry win over SE Raleigh on Friday night. Jalen Carson and Zarion Hobbs have been a pleasant surprise in the backcourt while Juice Coleman is shooting at a consistently high clip. Seniors Owen Pedersen and Gift Moses are both on nightly double-double watch as well. Their tough schedule continues with a road game against Riverside this week and they should be well prepared whenever conference play comes around.
Week 4: @ Riverside