The 2016-17 school year gave us a bunch of highlights and memories to span a calendar.
It started with a riveting football season that began with an exciting throwdown between Charlotte Christian and Charlotte Catholic on opening weekend. The Knights surprised the Cougars with their up-tempo style of play on their way to a 20-13 win, while Charlotte Latin dismantled Providence and Myers Park hammered Charlotte Country Day.
Latin made a statement when it smashed Charlotte Christian 35-10 Oct. 21. I for one favored the Knights going into the game, but Hawks’ coach Larry McNulty, quarterback Bates Jones and Mr. Do-it-all Melvin Rouse weren’t going to let Latin be denied. The Hawks brought down the Knights a second time in a dramatic 28-27 thriller to capture the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I state title.
Catholic quickly recovered from its season-opening setback by reeling off 13 consecutive wins behind the stellar play of running back Jack Brigham, quarterback Brady Berger, defensive end Reed Brandt, middle linebacker Chase Foley and others before sustaining a gut-wrenching 21-10 loss to Dudley in the semifinals.
Basketball season arrived with much potential and followed through. The So. Meck 8, aside from Olympic, was competitive from top to bottom on the boys’ side with Charlotte Catholic, Ardrey Kell and South Meck battling on a nightly basis. As for the girls, Ardrey Kell won the So. Meck 8 and reached the fourth round of the state playoffs under the guidance of coach Jeff Buseick and standout play of guard Deniya Lutz.
Providence Day’s girls’ basketball team won its eighth consecutive NCISAA 3A state title under coach Josh Springer’s watch. The Chargers were led by senior forward/center Janelle Bailey, a McDonald’s All-American, USA Basketball U17 player and four-time state champion, who will play for the North Carolina Tar Heels. It will be exciting to see if Providence Day can make it nine in a row or if another team finally knock off the Chargers.
Coach Brian Field did one of his most impressive coaching jobs this season when he guided Providence Day’s boys’ basketball team back to the Final Four for the third straight season. Field didn’t lack talent. He arguably had the best backcourt tandem in the state with Devon Dotson and Trey Wertz, but had major voids to fill following the departure of three Division I frontcourt players. The Chargers didn’t just reach the state semifinals, but they also won the Hoodie’s House Tournament, where they beat three nationally Top 25 ranked teams, including DeMatha. They also won the CISAA for the fifth year in a row. Field should have another title contender next season.
The coolest moment of the season was when Stephen Curry returned to Charlotte Christian to have his jersey retired. He talked about how his time at Charlotte Christian shaped him not only academically and athletically, but as a person, too.
The spring was equally exciting with good baseball and softball. The So. Meck 8 was competitive on the diamond with Providence, Ardrey Kell and Catholic getting after it. The Panthers won the conference, and coach Danny Hignight’s ballclub advanced to the fourth round of the state playoffs. Hignight should have another championship caliber baseball team next season; however, coach Hal Bagwell will have Ardrey Kell right on its heels.
Charlotte Christian’s baseball team also enjoyed a return to prominence after struggling in 2016. Coach Greg Simmons led the Knights to a 30-5 record and state championship appearance.
Catholic’s softball team had big shoes to fill on the mound following Carrie Eberle’s graduation, but coach Kathleen Murphy got an outstanding collective effort from all of her girls as the Cougars won the So. Meck 8 title and reached the third round of the state playoffs.
Catholic’s girls’ soccer team also put together an outstanding run that culminated in a semifinals berth, while Latin’s girls’ soccer team defeated Providence Day in the state championship.
South Charlotte showed once again why it’s one of the best areas for high school sports. Here’s to an even better year in sports in 2017-18.