1. Apex (19-0): defeated Panther Creek 68-30, def. Cary 63-27 --up next: Fuquay-Varina (Tue.), @ Lee County (Fri.)
- It's perplexing, really. Apex is the only undefeated 4-A team in the state, yet is ranked fourth and has just one No. 1 vote. What's up with that? One possible explanation is that not playing in a Christmas tournament hurt Apex from a exposure and competitive standpoint. While No. 1 Wakefield, which has comparable margins of victory and record, was in South Carolina taking on the best-of-the-best, Apex was at home staying both out of sight and mind of the voters. The Cougs will just have to prove themselves in the state playoffs in two weeks.
2. Athens Drive (18-4): def. Lee County 89-41, def. Panther Creek 67-29 --up next: @ Middle Creek (Tue.), Green Hope (Fri.)
- As easy as last week's schedule was, this week's is a complete 180 for Athens. If the Lady Jaguars want to keep their hold on second place in the conference, they can't afford a losing to the third-place teams in Middle Creek or Green Hope. It should be a good test heading into the conference tournament, where you just know the Jags want nothing more than a third try at taking down Apex.
3. Cary Christian (21-3-?): def. Arendell-Parrott Academy 52-13, ?? Rocky Mount Academy --up next: @ Halifax Academy (Tue.), Rocky Mount Academy (Wed.)
- We don't know how they did against Rocky Mount Academy (yet). But while we're talking about how good Apex has been on the public school 4-A level, Cary Christian has been pretty darn impressive on the private school 2-A level. They are the lesser-known team that will be shooting for a state championship in the coming weeks.
4. Green Hope (10-10): def. Cary 69-34, def. Fuquay-Varina --up next: Lee County (Tue.), @ Athens Drive (Fri.)
- You just can't say enough about the job Michael Robinson has done at Green Hope this year. His Falcons have won eight of their last 12 with losses to just Apex, Athens and Middle Creek. If they can beat Athens and Middle Creek can't, they lock up the No. 3 spot in the Tri-Eight.
5. Middle Creek (15-7): def. Fuquay 58-27, def. Lee County 70-51 --up next: Athens Drive (Tue.), @ Panther Creek
- The Lady Mustangs have a huge showdown with Athens on Tuesday. They certainly have the size to match-up with the Jaguars, but Middle Creek lost their first meeting by 20. If the Mustangs are hitting their 3-ball, which is a lot more likely on their home rims, it could be an exciting game.
6. Cary Academy (16-9): lost to Durham Academy 48-32, lost to North Raleigh Christian Academy 55-49 --up next: Forsyth Country Day (Tue.), Ravenscroft (Fri.)
- Somehow, Cary Academy turned a 17-point victory into a six-point loss in just a week with two games against NRCA just seven days apart. Losers in three of their last four, the Lady Chargers have plummeted in our rankings, falling from fourth to sixth. Good news isn't on the horizon either, as they play conference-leading Ravenscroft on Friday. We considered dropping the Chargers even further, but the fact Holly Springs plays in the GNC stopped their fall at No. 6.
7. Holly Springs (13-9): lost to Knightdale 38-34, def. Smithfield-Selma 48-45 --up next: @ SE Raleigh (Tue.), Garner (Fri.)
- Holly Springs missed a chance last week. If they beat Knightdale, they are all alone in second-place in the Greater Neuse Conference. Instead, they're tied with East Wake. I know what you're thinking: "Why is that bad? Those two teams split the regular-season series." But East Wake doesn't have Southeast Raleigh (12-0 in GNC play) on the schedule and the Golden Hawks do. Advantage: East Wake. Pencil HSHS in for third place — still not bad for a third-year program.
8: Cary (5-15): lost to Green Hope 69-34, lost to Apex 63-27 --up next: @ Panther Creek (Tue.), @ Fuquay-Varina (Fri.)
- The Lady Imps round out their regular season with two teams they've defeated before. While Cary hasn't beaten anyone it wasn't expected to beat, it hasn't lost to anyone it shouldn't have either. A pair of wins will clinch the fifth and final playoff spot in the Tri-Eight.
9: Fuquay-Varina (4-17): lost to Middle Creek 58-27, lost to Green Hope --up next -- @ Apex (Tue.), Cary (Fri.)
- The bad news is Fuquay has little chance to get the fifth spot and a playoff berth this year. The good news is they have at least a chance when they host Cary on Friday, and the better news is they'll lose just two seniors from this year's team and will have a better chance next year.
10: Panther Creek (3-19): lost to Apex 68-30, lost to Athens Drive 67-29 --up next: Cary (Tue.), Middle Creek (Fri.)
- The girls' program at PC didn't take off in year three like the boys' did, but then again there was no Earnest Ross or Marques Oliver to be found. They will close out this regular season with a pair of home games.