SWAC girls’ basketball preview

SWAC girls’ basketball preview: Leslie leads Holly Springs

mblake@newsobserver.comNovember 17, 2013 

Holly Springs’ Kiara Leslie, right, returns as two-time conference player of the year.


  • Winter sports preview schedule

    Nov. 20 - Wrestling

    Nov. 24 - Boys’ and girls’ swimming

    Nov. 27 - Indoor track; gymnastics

  • Last 5 conference champions

    Conference tournament champs in parentheses

    2012-13: Green Hope (Holly Springs)

    2011-12: Green Hope (Green Hope)

    2010-11: Green Hope (Green Hope)

    2009-10: Green Hope (Green Hope)

    2008-09: Apex (Apex)

    State championships among all SWAC teams

    Cary (1993)

After four seasons of Green Hope girls’ basketball going without a regular-season conference loss, a shift in power may be coming to the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.

It started last year when Holly Springs knocked off the Falcons in the conference tournament game, which ended a 76 conference win streak that included tournament games.

Green Hope’s regular-season conference win streak is at 64. The Falcons (26-3) ended last season No. 6 in The News & Observer rankings after falling to Broughton in the third round of the playoffs.

Reigning coach of the year Mike Robinson loses two four-year starters and only returns Jaria Martin (4.4 ppg) to the lineup. Erin Coogan (4 ppg) will be relied upon more heavily.

Holly Springs (26-4) reached the third round of the playoffs as well last year, ending the season at No. 5 in The News & Observer rankings. The Golden Hawks are led by two-time conference player of the year Kiara Leslie (20.3 points, 11.2 rebounds per game) who was also the District 5 player of the year.

Leslie, a Maryland recruit, will be flanked by returners Kelsey Holloway, Hadiya Howard (7 points, 6.1 rebounds per game) and Madison Perry.

Apex (17-11) and Athens Drive (14-13) tied for third in the league last year.

Apex reached the second round of the playoffs and brings back its entire starting lineup, led by all-conference pick Emily Sasser (10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 steals per game), a senior who has signed to play at Elon next year. Junior second-team all-conference pick Mia Castagnero (7.7 points, 7.1 rebounds), guard Samantha Curcuru (5.9 ppg, Meredith recruit), guard Joelle Deese (6.1 ppg), center Tiffany Finley (6.8 ppg) and Jess and Katie Wight all come back with experience.

Senior Aliya Ruffin was the team’s leading scorer in 2011-12, but missed last year with a torn ACL.

Athens Drive was the surprise of the league in coach Dayna Jordan’s first year, losing in the first round of the playoffs. The Jaguars have a scoring threat in junior all-conference pick Grace Hunter (22.6 ppg). Four other lettermen return, including Amani Rivera (3.9 ppg).

Middle Creek (13-13) made it to the playoffs and finished fifth in the league despite having no player average more than 7.6 points per game. The Mustangs are breaking in a new starting five, with Ashley Shenk (5.2 ppg) as the leading returning scorer and Holly Hite as the team’s leading returning rebounder.

Cary (10-16) tied for sixth in the league last year, but much of that had to do with the preseason injury to Azura Stevens. Stevens, a 6-foot-4-inch senior heading to Duke next year, played in the last six games of the year and averaged 13.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Meredith Courtney, Mallory Curtis, Ashanti Kindred and Charlescia Walton give the Imps some experience at guard.

Panther Creek (12-12) and Fuquay-Varina (2-21) are each welcoming new coaches this year.

Danielle Moore is the new coach at Panther Creek, where almost the entire team has changed from a year ago. Anna Huryn, Erin Kane, Maggie O’Flaherty, Maddie Stevens and Kate Ulveling are the only ones who didn’t graduate, and none started.

The Fuquay-Varina Bengals, now under coach Gail Siemer, bring back two of their five leading scorers in Tiana Hunter-Porter (8 ppg) and Lakeia Jones (3.2 ppg)

Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps

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