Laughter, Hardin named WNC's top hoops stars

Laughter, Hardin named WNC's top hoops stars

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Laughter, Hardin named WNC's top hoops stars

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ASHEVILLE

Carolina Day senior Haley Laughter could mix it up inside with anyone but also had enough touch to shoot 54 percent from the field.

She played guard, forward and center at some point in the past four years.

But the role that fit Laughter best was being a winner.

Laughter has been named the Citizen-Times All-WNC Girls Basketball Player of the Year after guiding the Wildcats (26-3) to their third consecutive NCISAA 2-A championship.

Tuscola senior guard Logan Hardin is the boys winner on the heels of the Mountaineers’ first conference championship season in 32 years.

Laughter will likely be used as a guard when she begins her college career at Florida Gulf Coast. But the 6-foot senior showed a comfort level wherever she roamed on the floor as a four-time NCISAA 2-A all-state selection.

Laughter averaged a team-high 21.1 points this winter to go along with 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 3.0 assists a game.

“We started using her more at guard this season because that’s really where Haley projects at the next level,” Carolina Day coach Joe Carrington said.

“But Haley could play just about anywhere, and she’s more or less been that way her whole career for us. She’s such a great competitor.”

Laughter was the only Western North Carolina girls player voted to The Associated Press all-state team and became just the 11th female player in area history to score more than 2,000 career points.

As word of Hardin’s scoring proficiency spread, he was often double-teamed and even triple-teamed by defenses.

It didn’t do much to affect Hardin’s WNC-best average of 23.8 points a game.

The 6-foot guard was named the WNC Athletic Conference player of the year, district player of the year by the N.C. Basketball Coaches Association as well as the Blue-White All-Star game’s most valuable player. In addition to his points, Hardin averaged 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists a night for the WNCAC regular-season champion Mountaineers (24-5).

He had a career-high 41 points in a WNCAC tournament game against Franklin on Feb. 19 and a dozen games with 25 or more points.

“It really was a fun season, especially being part of such a good team,” Hardin said.

“Even the practices were fun. You put in all the hard work, and you win, it’s a good feeling.”

Fourth-year coach Nathan Messer took over the Tuscola program when Hardin and his fellow seniors were freshmen. Their time together culminated with the Mountaineers claiming their first conference championship in boys basketball since 1981.

“I hate to see it end. I hate to see any of these kids leave,” Messer said.

“They pretty much laid the foundation here. Now, we need to keep it going. Logan was one of those silent leaders for us. His scoring got a lot of attention, but his on the ball defense was just unbelievable. He played so hard on defense that I didn’t mind him getting extra shots if he wanted to. When kids see that, they respond.”

Hardin has not decided where he will play in college but indicated that he may pursue a walk-on opportunity if it means he can play for a larger school.

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