West Charlotte looks to repeat on the hardwood

This story originally appeared in the Holiday issue of ESPNHS magazine’s North Carolina edition. West Charlotte opened the season Tuesday with a 79-54 win against West Mecklenburg.

Coach Baronton Terry calls it simply a matter of “peaking at the right time.” Some say they had it all along. But no matter what you label it, one thing became clear last season when the West Charlotte Lions won the Class 4A title: They were just getting started.

In 2009-10, the Lions blew a lead and lost in the state semifinals. They made sure the same didn’t happen last year, breezing through the state tourney before letting the one they call Big Baby take over in the title game. Kennedy Meeks recorded 12 points, nine blocks and 19 rebounds (the fourth most in championship game history) to earn MVP honors. As for this season? Well, let’s hear it from the coach himself.

“We return 13 kids off the state championship team. And not only do they return, I know they all got better,” says Terry, who is entering his fourth year as coach. “My job is a lot easier because I don’t have to convince them of what it takes.”

Part of what it takes — talent — lies in guys like Meeks, a junior ranked No. 29 in the ESPNU 60, as well as forwards Mike Brown and Juwan Byers, who missed part of last season with a shoulder injury.

Another part is grit, and with a tough schedule ahead, the Lions should be battle-tested. Along with playing in the tough I-MECK conference, the champs will mix it up at the Chick-fil-A Classic with several POWERADE FAB 50 schools, including United Faith Christian and Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).

“Everybody wants to beat us now, so it’s going to be tough,” Terry admits. “But it’ll be rewarding to watch them grow and develop. My main concern is playing in March.”

Of course, that’s when the state title game rolls around. And if the past is any indicator, it’s also when this talented bunch will begin to peak for another title run.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.