West Charlotte's boys' basketball team will go to Boone tonight to play Watauga in a N.C. 4A sectional championship game at 6 p.m. If the Lions win, they'll qualify for their first Western Regional berth since 2005.
The Lions, like all of tonight's sectional finalists, are four wins away from a state championship.
West Charlotte, which used to be a perennial state power, hasn't won one in 11 years.
Coach Baronton Terry, whose team finished fourth in the I-Meck conference this season, said West Charlotte is in this position because it is finally learning to play together.
At the start of the season, the Lions were working in a new backcourt. Point guard Jacoby Davis moved in from Vance's district and shooting guard J.T. Terrell moved to Charlotte from Burlington.
The Lions had a lot of new young players, too. They started strong, going 7-0, but Terrell was suspended four games for throwing an elbow just before the Christmas tournaments began.
That stole some of the Lions' early momentum.
"We were just starting to get used to one another and then J.T. was gone for four games," Terry said. "Then we learned to play without him and then he came back."
The Lions lost three of four games Jan. 8-22 and dropped to 12-7. Over their next four games, they went 2-2.
Then something's clicked in the postseason.
West Charlotte (20-9) has won five straight games by an average of 18.4 points, including Wednesday's 66-47 win over Vance. Terrell has scored 157 points in that run and made 26 three-point shots.
"I think we're peaking at the right time," Terry said. "We've really come together and started to play well."
Ardrey Kell (19-8) plays at Winston-Salem Reagan (21-3). The Knights are in the Sweet 16 for the second straight season and are one win away from a second straight N.C. 4A Western Regional berth.
Their first two playoff opponents were 23-32 combined. Things will be tougher tonight.
Myers Park (16-9) at Lake Norman (22-3). The game will start at 8 because Lake Norman's girls (23-5) are also in the sectional finals tonight at home against Asheville Reynolds (19-3).
Myers Park was a regional semifinalist a year ago, but needed a wild card to reach the postseason. The Mustangs upset I-Meck regular-season champ Hopewell at Hopewell Wednesday. Lake Norman lost twice to Hopewell this season.
Harding (16-12) at Concord (24-5): Concord is going for its eighth N.C. Western regional appearance. Harding has never been. The game matches two great guards: Harding's Corey Raley-Ross and Concord's Jacquise Moore.
Salisbury (18-5) at Berry (22-7): Berry is in the sectional finals for the first time since 2005 and seeks its first regional appearance. Salisbury hasn't been to the regionals since 1992.
Butler girls (21-4) at Greensboro Dudley (24-4): Dudley was N.C. 3A champ in 2009 before it moved up in class. Butler reached the N.C. 4A state semifinals last season before it lost to eventual state champ West Charlotte.
The teams have a common opponent this season. Gastonia Forestview, which is in tonight's 3A sectional finals, beat Dudley 47-40 Nov. 28. Butler beat Forestview 72-62 on Dec. 2.
East Meck (25-2) at Winston-Salem Reynolds (25-3): The Eagles are looking for a repeat regional trip. To do it, they'll have to end Reynolds' eight-game win streak.
McDowell (26-1) at Hopewell (23-4): Hopewell has set a school-record for wins and hunts its first regional appearance. McDowell will look for its 12th regional appearance and first since 2008.