HUNTERSVILLE – The Lake Norman Charter girls’ basketball team dipped into North Carolina basketball lore for motivation.
At a recent team meeting, the Knights watched “Survive and Advance,” an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the 1983 N.C. State men’s basketball team. Coach Jim Valvano’s team won nine postseason games, including three by one point and another in overtime en route to the national championship.
None of Lake Norman Charter’s players were born then.
“A lot of their parents know the names and the story,” Charter coach Bobby Williams said with a laugh. “The story shows the importance of every single game. We’re trying to relive that on the high school level.”
Lake Norman Charter isn’t just surviving. The Knights are thriving. They’re 21-1 after a 60-35 victory against Gastonia Ashbrook on Feb. 10. Lake Norman Charter has clinched the Big South 3A/4A conference championship. They’re 13-0 in conference games heading into the regular-season finale against North Gaston on Feb. 14.
They’ve navigated the second half of the conference schedule without any bumps.
“We’re treating each game like it is the next big game,” Williams said. “We’re taking them one at a time. In the second round of conference, we knew teams would be prepared better for us. In the playoffs we just need to keep doing what we do.”
Lake Norman Charter is an effective blend of experience, balance and talent. There are four seniors on the roster and three are starters. Those three – Alex Busch, Ezinne Mbamalu and Sierra Wiley – were carryovers from last season’s 24-6 squad that reached the fourth round of the playoffs.
Busch, effective at guard or forward, leads the team with a 16.2 scoring average. She also averages six rebounds and 3.3 assists. Mbamalu, a 6-foot-2 center, averages 15.7 points and team-highs in rebounds (14.8) and blocked shots (3.0). She’ll play at Winthrop next season. Wiley is the steady point guard averaging 7.4 points, 4.6 assists and 2.5 steals.
Hannah Gaskins, a freshman, averages seven points and 5.5 rebounds. Sarah Novroski, a 5-10 sophomore, is a solid rebounder (7.5 per game) and averages six points. Allison Bock, a junior guard, adds outside shooting.
“I think the key to our season is having four seniors and three of them start,” Williams said. “They’ve been around the game and were part of a team that made a deep run in the playoffs. No situation surprises them.”
Lake Norman Charter, a 3A school, is 6-1 against area 4A teams in non-conference games. The Knights’ lone loss was to 4A Hopewell in the third game, a defeat they’ve since avenged. Lake Norman Charter also has beaten Mooresville (twice), North Mecklenburg, Hough and Mallard Creek.
"As a team, every game we've had someone different step up," Williams said. "Other teams might have one or two top players. It makes us harder to defend.
The mix of inside and outside scoring is nice. Williams said memories of losing in last season’s playoffs motivate the team.
“The fire’s still there, knowing they got knocked out,” he said. “In the off-season that’s what they talked about. In (the regionals) Greensboro, we had the deer-in-headlights look. I think they know how to handle that now. We’re treating each game like a business trip.”