We haven’t had two county basketball teams make it to the regionals in the same season since Croatan entered the scene in 1998.

In fact, we haven’t had two county basketball teams make it to the regionals in the same season since 1994. The West Carteret girls and East Carteret boys made it that year with West winning the 3A state title.

The Croatan girls and West Carteret boys can knock out both of those “since” instances this season.

Croatan has fallen just one round short of the regionals on three occasions, including back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009.

The Cougars went a combined 46-9 during those years under Steve Yount and lost in the third round each year. They went 20-5 in 2001 and lost in the third round under Scott McBride.

Croatan was 20-2 last season when it hosted a second-round game and fell 41-29 to Ledford Senior.

After bringing back its top seven scorers, the team is favored to repeat as 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference champion after going undefeated in the league last year, ensuring it should get a decent seed in the 2A playoffs.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 2A east teams which finished last season ranked in the MaxPreps top 12.

Farmville Central ended up third and is still loaded after going 27-1 and finishing as the state runner-up.

Ledford Senior went 23-7 and ranked sixth, but it lost a large percentage of its offense with the graduation of Lyrik Thorne who averaged 32.5 points in the playoffs and finished as the leading scorer in Davidson County history with 2,562 points.

Kinston brings back all but one of its players from a team that ranked seventh and advanced to the regional final with a 25-6 mark.

Bertie lost leading scorer Akyia King (21 points per game) from a team that ranked eighth and finished 25-3.

N.C. School of Science and Math lost seven of its top eight scorers from the two-year school after going 32-1 and ranking 10th.

In the HighSchoolOT Top 25 Preseason Poll of East Teams (regardless of classification), Farmville Central is No. 2, Kinston No. 11 and Bertie No. 21.

If Croatan can avoid those three teams in the first three rounds of the playoffs, it would give itself a much better shot of reaching the regional semifinal.

And who knows which are among the up-and-coming 2A teams that will rise up this season.

The Cougars, who were 15th in last year’s final MaxPreps rankings, will get a better idea of their postseason potential when they square off with 2A power East Duplin at home Thursday. The Panthers, who were 14th in the final MaxPreps rankings, bring back seven of their top nine scorers from a team that went 26-2.

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The West Carteret boys haven’t made it to the regional round since winning the 3A state championship in 1985. That is also the last time the team advanced to the third round.

The Patriots are favored to repeat as the 3A Coastal Conference champion despite losing three of their top eight scorers. They went 8-2 in league play and 19-6 overall.

Northside-Jacksonville and White Oak tied for the runner-up spot at 7-3, but the Monarchs lost three of their top five scorers and the Vikings lost their top five. Jacksonville and Havelock each went 4-6 in the conference. The Cardinals lost two of their top three scorers and the Rams lost their top four.

If West can get a good seed in the playoffs, the 3A east appears to be open this season.

Here’s a breakdown of the top teams from that region which finished last season ranked in the MaxPreps top 12.

Hillside went 28-2, made it to the regional semifinal and finished third in the rankings. The Hornets lost four of their top six scorers.

Williams went 27-4, was the state runner-up and was ranked fourth. The Bulldogs lost five of their top seven scorers.

Northern Nash went 27-2, made it to the regional semifinal and ranked fifth. The Knights lost their top five scorers.

Eastern Alamance went 29-2, made it to the regional final and ranked sixth. The Eagles lost four of their top five scorers.

Southern Durham went 20-7 and ranked 12th. The Spartans lost three of their top seven scorers.

By the way, West Carteret finished last year ranked 43rd.

And who knows which are among the up-and-coming 3A teams that will rise up this season.

Only two of those five teams that finished in the top 12 of the MaxPreps rankings are ranked in the HighSchoolOT Top 25 Preseason Poll of East Teams (regardless of classification). Those are Southern Durham at No. 15 and Northern Nash at No. 25.

Other 3A teams in the poll include No. 13 Clayton, No. 21 Northwood, No. 22 Terry Sanford and No. 24 Vance County.

If either the Croatan girls or West Carteret boys were to fall short of the regionals, here’s a darkhorse county team that could make it: the East Carteret boys.

It seems odd to say that about a team that went 9-13 last year, but that squad was led by a host of sophomores. After starting the year 1-7, the squad finished on an 8-6 run. Three of its last six losses were by seven points or less. Six of its 13 losses were by single digits.

(Send comments or questions to jj@thenewstimes.com or follow him on Twitter @jjsmithccnt.)

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