The Catawba Ridge Copperheads boys’ basketball program has a target on their back and they know it.
As defending co-Region 3-4A champions, the Copperheads will open the 2023-2024 season this week at West Florence High School to participate in the Turkey Shootout.
Catawba Ridge is coming off a 24-5 record last season and a third-round loss to Greenville in the playoffs. The Copperheads lost a key player to graduation in Grant Lovette, but brings back senior Zyan Hager, who was named one of the top five players in the state, and sophomore Lance Barnes, who will see more playing time this year with Lovette’s departure.
Catawba Ridge opens the season ranked fourth in the state ahead of region rival Lancaster, which sits in fifth. The Copperheads have six seniors on this year’s team including Landon Foley and junior Brady Ambrose, whose presence in the middle should be beneficial to the Copperheads.
“I feel like we have potential to be a strong team in our region and across the state if we can maintain our heath,” said Catawba Ridge head coach Brett Childers. “We have a really good roster. We have four starters back. We share the ball really well. We are going to be hard to scout if we play the way we are capable of playing. These guys have been through it. They can do a lot of different things and they take the pressure off each other.”
Childers said he feels like his bench is even deeper this year than last season.
“Our top seven to nine will be really strong,” he said. “We can go even deeper into the bench if we have to. We do have a lot of new faces, so we have to get them caught up and acclimated to how we play as quickly as we can.”
Teams like Lancaster, South Pointe, and Indian Land should be the hardest competition for Catawba Ridge this season.
“Our region top to bottom is, if not the top region in the state in all classifications, is one of the top two or three,” Childers said. “I know last year arguably we were the toughest region in the state despite classification. At one point we had four teams in the top 10. We were tooth and nail all the way through. I think it will be very similar this year. It is going to be a dog fight each night.”
Hager said he enjoys playing at Lancaster and the atmosphere that the Bruins have.
“They have energy,” he said. “It is a packed crowd. It gets loud in there. You can’t hear.”
Barnes has notably grown taller and put on muscle. Both of which has become a benefit for him increasing his confidence on the court.
“I am a lot more confident,” he said. “I have been working a lot over the summer on my jump shot and my ball handling. I won’t be as nervous as I was last year.”
The Lady Copperheads are coming off a 20-5 record last season and a share of the Region 3-4A title with South Pointe. Catawba Ridge is looking to shake off the first-round playoff upset last year by Eastside by getting off to a good start this year.
Catawba Ridge head coach Sheridan Pressley said the team is still shaping the program for the fifth-year school.
“We are building off the culture we have started the last couple seasons,” Pressley said. “We are looking to move forward with the standard we set.”
The Copperheads have two starters returning in senior Morgan Davis, who is the team’s only senior, and Addison Cunningham. A familiar name missing off this year’s roster is Makailah Davis, who transferred out of the district into Charlotte and is playing for South Meck High School.
“We are a young group, but that is exciting,” Pressley said.
Being a young team, Catawba Ridge will have their hands full with teams such as South Pointe and Lancaster, who are both ranked in the top 10 this season to start.
“South Pointe is our biggest challenge in the region,” Pressley said. “They have set a tradition there and that is something we are working towards as a program as well.”
Morgan Davis said she is ready for her senior year.
“We have worked all summer,” Davis said. “I am ready to get into it.”
The Lady Copperheads open the season with a two-day tournament at Byrnes High School and then both the boys’ and girls’ teams start the regular season Nov. 28 at home against Marvin Ridge.
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @fortprep