Sweet 16 at 40: Girls’ high school basketball players, coaches who just missed our all-era list

Earlier this week, The Charlotte Observer honored the best girls’ high school basketball teams, coaches and players of the Sweet 16 era in celebration of the 40th anniversary of its high school poll.

Since 1984, hundreds of outstanding players, coaches and teams have come through the region and been covered by the media outlet. Here are 10 coaches and players that nearly made the cut.

Gary Richmond, Chambers and Hopewell coach: In 1997, Richmond was hired as the first coach at Chambers, then called Vance High, and he coached nine seasons. His teams won 149 games and reached the 4A state final in 2003. Richmond’s teams had seven straight winning seasons and won three conference titles.

He later coached at Hopewell for five seasons. His teams were 93-39, including a 10-16 record in his first year. In 2011-12, he was named I-MECK 4A conference coach of the year and his daughter, Sharee’, was named conference player of the year by The Observer.

Janelle Bailey, Providence Day, class of 2016: Bailey was all-state as a freshman when Providence Day won its fifth straight state championship. Her sister, Giselle, was an all-state player at Charlotte Christian. Janelle Bailey became a three-time all-state center who averaged 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds as a senior.

Former Hartsville High girls’ basketball player Tammy Gibson
Former Hartsville High girls’ basketball player Tammy Gibson

Tammy Gibson, Hartsville (S.C.), class of 1990: Hartsville was in The Observer’s coverage area in the 1980s and early ‘90s when Gibson was a star. She played varsity from eighth grade to 12th grade, allowable under S.C. rules. In 1990, Gibson was named S.C. Ms. Basketball, when she led Hartsville to a 32-1 record, averaged a career-best 20.5 points per game, led her team in assists (5.4 per game) and set a S.C. record for steals in a season (242). Gibson, who signed with N.C. State, was often compared with 1987 N.C. Ms. Basketball Andrea Stinson of North Mecklenburg.

Hartsville’s 1991-92 team was honored as the best of the 40-year era of The Observer’s Sweet 16 era, but Gibson’s final team in 1989-90 wasn’t bad, either. It finished 32-1 and won the 4A state championship. The Silver Foxes’ only loss was to New York’s Christ the King, the top-ranked team in the nation. Hartsville lost by three.

Davidson Day’s Mallorie Haines (center) awaits action to resume after the games 1st timeout. Carmel Christian would host Davidson Day Thursday, January 9, 2019.January 9, 2019. Jonathan Aguallo/Special to the Observer
Davidson Day’s Mallorie Haines (center) awaits action to resume after the games 1st timeout. Carmel Christian would host Davidson Day Thursday, January 9, 2019.January 9, 2019. Jonathan Aguallo/Special to the Observer

Mallorie Haines, Davidson Day, class of 2021: Haines transferred from Catawba Bandys in the middle of her freshman year, after she had posted several 40-plus point games. At Davidson Day, she once scored 51 points in game, tied for fifth-most in Mecklenburg County history.

Haines’ teams won three NCISAA 2A straight state titles to finish her career at Davidson Day, and she made three straight NCISAA all-state teams, averaging 26 points, five rebounds and four steals as a senior. She plays at Davidson College.

Leah Metcalf, Charlotte Christian, class of 2001: In 2000, Metcalf was a key part of a Knights’ team that won the first state championship in school history, an NCISAA 3A title.

In the 2000-01 season, she was first team All-Observer and runner-up Mecklenburg County player of the year to four-time winner Natasha Brackett of Providence Day. Metcalf, who signed with UNC, averaged 19.2 points, 5.5 steals and 4.4 assists. She was a top 50 national recruit. Today, she’s an assistant coach for the Charlotte 49ers.

Javarus Abraham, West Charlotte, class of 2000: When Abraham made the Associated Press all-state team in the spring of her senior year, she became the second player in Observer history to be named all-state three times after Providence Day’s Konecka Drakeford.

Abraham set a 4A Western Regional record with 10 made 3-pointers in her sophomore season, and she named to the All-Observer regional first team three times. She ended her career as West Charlotte’s career 3-point shooting and scoring leader. Abraham played in college at Louisburg.

Former Mallard Creek coach Clarence Johnson was The Observer’s Mecklenburg County coach of the year in 2018. Pictured with the All-Mecklenburg girls’ basketball team (left to right): Deniyah Lutz, Ardrey Kell; Kennedy Boyd, Providence Day; Coach Clarence Johnson, Mallard Creek; Jordan McLaughlin, Berry; and Jessica Timmons, North Mecklenburg. Not pictured is Mallard Creek’s Ahlana Smith David T. Foster III/

Clarence Johnson, Mallard Creek coach: Johnson was twice named Observer regional coach of the year and was named Observer Mecklenburg County of the year three times, tied for second-most overall behind Providence Day and Myers Park coach Barbara Nelson.

Johnson’s teams reached several 4A Western Regional tournaments and had 11 straight winning seasons. In a three-year span — from the 2015-16 season to the 2017-18 season — Johnson’s Mavericks were 83-6.

Kendria Holmes, Victory Christian, class of 2006: Holmes was a key figure on some the Kings’ best teams and she made the All-Observer team twice. She made the first team as a senior when she averaged 24.4 points, 7.4 assists and 6.5 steals. Holmes, who signed with Providence and was all-state as a senior, led Victory Christian to the NCISAA 2A state title in ‘06.

Rajsha Blackmon, Kennedy Charter, class of 2013: Blackmon was an all-state pick as a junior, when she led North Carolina in scoring at 31.5 points per game, which ranked 13th nationally. She also averaged 12 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game. Blackmon had 46 points, 15 rebounds and five steals against Caldwell Academy during a Christmas tournament in the 2012-13 season. Blackmon did not play her senior season in Charlotte, though, signing early with North Greenville Junior College.

Jill Ingram, Providence Day, class of 2004: Ingram was a four-time All-Observer regional pick. She signed with Georgia Tech but missed the last month of her senior season with a knee injury.

As a senior, Ingram was also named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-America team.