It’s not every year more than a handful of winter sports teams from East Wake and Knightdale are among the teams to beat in the area.
But that’s the case this season.
All four varsity basketball teams are in the News & Observer’s top-15 rankings, and none are holding up the rear of those lists.
Knightdale’s wrestling team was ranked ninth in the Triangle with a 7-2 record as of early last week. And the Knightdale boys track team is putting up numbers similar to, at times faster than, those it posted as it won last year’s indoor state title.
Best I can tell from a phone conversation with first-year Knights track coach Chris Miller, the team is doing what it has done for the last three years in terms of work ethic. Team members say they are ahead of where they were at this point last year.
Soon, they will vie for the program’s fourth consecutive state title for indoor track and seventh consecutive state title, including the NCHSAA outdoor championships.
The basketball rivalry between East Wake and Knightdale seems to never disappoint – even when one team is largely favored to win, the other often poses a threat. But the current status of the Knights and Warriors teams made their games on Friday as significant as any I can remember over the past seven years.
East Wake’s boys traveled to host Knightdale with an 11-4 record and as the No. 8 squad in the N&O rankings. The Knights were 12-3 and ranked ninth before the contest.
In girls action, East Wake entered the game with an 12-2 mark and ranked No. 5 by the N&O, while the Knights went in 11-3 and ranked at No. 8.
Knightdale point guard Mikaya Wilson was an area leader in two girls basketball categories prior to Friday’s game.
Of players who had competed in a minimum of 10 games, Wilson was third in steals with 57 over 14 games (4.1 per game) and was atop the list in assists with 79, an average of 5.6 dishes per contest.
I used the eastern Wake teams’ performances against Southeast Raleigh as a measuring stick when trying to determine how they’d stack up Friday. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 2 in girls action and No. 15 in boys play before Friday.
The East Wake girls, who have for two years been the runner-up to Southeast in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference, came out flat early on and were handed their eighth straight loss to the Bulldogs, 53-39. The story was nearly identical for Knightdale’s girls, who showed improvement in the middle of the game but still came up short, 56-44.
East Wake’s boys used a press to distance themselves from the Bulldogs and cruised to an 83-66 triumph on the road on Dec. 19. The Knights boys led Southeast by just seven points at halftime of their Jan. 3 meeting in Knightdale, but held the Bulldogs to 13 total second-half points on the way to a convincing, 71-44, victory.
Indoor track state championships are set for Feb. 8. Dual team wrestling playoffs begin Feb. 4 and the individual wrestling postseason starts with regionals Feb. 14-15. The date of the first round of basketball playoff games is Feb. 24.
With the local schools eying berths to pretty much every one of those events, expect next month to be a busy one.
Knightdale’s senior-heavy boys track team has the ingredients needed to contend for another state title. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see eastern Wake teams make runs on the court or mat.
A reminder of how things played out last year: Knightdale wrestling bowed out in the first round of the dual team playoffs and LaMar Dulin (195 pounds) finished eighth in the state in the individual state championships.
All four local basketball teams made the state playoffs, but none made it past the first round. East Wake’s girls came closest to advancing, losing 61-58 at home to Harnett Central.
Moody: 919-829-4806 or email@example.com