Reigning Southwest Wake Athletic Conference girls basketball champ Athens Drive will be starting over this year.
Gone are four of last year’s top five scorers for the Jaguars (22-6, 12-2), including N&O player of the year Grace Hunter, who averaged 30.8 points per game and was the school’s first player to reach the 2,000-point mark. Hunter helped lead the team to the 4A East regionals (fourth round).
Sophomore Robin Gallagher is the team’s leading returning scorer (5.6 ppg).
Apex (16-8, 11-3) was second in the SWAC, led by first-team all-conference player Elle Hepburn (10.0 ppg), who is a senior. Kimberly Schuh (6.0 ppg), a junior, also returns. The Cougars graduated seven seniors.
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Holly Springs (17-7, 10-4) brings back the bulk of its roster. Senior point guard Brianna Tate led the Golden Hawks in points (14.0), steals (4.0) and assists (2.7). Senior Caila Spruill (8.0 points, 7.2 rebounds) also returns as a two-time all-conference pick. The Hawks have speed with Ryain Billingsley and Nya Jordan (4.8 ppg), and size with Samantha Weaver and Elizabeth Thomas (5.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
After a year away, Mike Robinson is back as Green Hope (13-9, 8-6) girls basketball coach. Robinson led the Falcons to all four of the school’s conference titles, and to the 2010 state championship game.
The Falcons are led by junior point guard Kelly Fitzgerald (14.7 ppg) and also return Rachel Argabright (9.0 ppg) and Allie Winiecki (7.8 ppg).
Middle Creek (13-12, 6-8) returns three of its top five scorers in Kyle McElroy (7.2 ppg), Natalie McBryde (4.1 ppg) and Julia Creasy (3.2 ppg).
No one was hurt worse by the cancellation of the conference tournament, due to ice, than Panther Creek (7-16, 4-10). The Catamounts won three of their last four games, including two wins that changed the conference race.
Panther Creek returns its top four scorers from last year: all-conference pick Jasmine McKoy (8.0 ppg), Cassie Zietlow (7.6 ppg), Gabby Rogers (5.3 ppg) and Isis Lett (4.5 ppg).
Fuquay-Varina (8-15, 3-11) took a step forward as a program, even upsetting Apex once. The Bengals graduated all but two of its top five scorers: Kelley Suggs (6.2 ppg) and Holly Wilson (5.7 ppg).
Cary (4-18, 2-12) brings back Kirstyn Clark (6.1 ppg), Megan Cannady (3.6 ppg) and Adrienne Moore (3.0 rpg).
A familiar face is back to coach first-year team Apex Friendship – longtime Apex coach Scott Campbell, who won 462 games and led Apex to the 2006 state title game.
Last 10 conference champions
Conference tournament winner in parentheses
2015: Athens Drive (N/A)
2014: Cary (N/A)
2013: Green Hope (Holly Springs)
2012: Green Hope (Green Hope)
2011: Green Hope (Green Hope)
2010: Green Hope (Green Hope)
2009: Apex (Apex)
2008: Athens Drive (Athens Drive)
2007: Athens Drive (Athens Drive)
2006: Apex (Apex)
State championships among all SWAC teams