North girls still special
SPENCER — North Rowan’s girls missed 19 free throws and they missed Special Washington, but they managed to win another YVC game.
North lost Washington, the freshman who leads the team in scoring, with an injury five minutes into the game, and desperate foul trouble mounted as the undersized Cavaliers tried to cope with Albemarle 6-footer Akela Branch, who torched them for 30 points, 20 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
Somehow North pulled it out, as every Cavalier who played dug down deep and did something that was well ... special in a 59-55 win.
Aliyah Farmer scored 13 points, Demeria Robinson had 12, and Taylor Sells added 11.
“Girls stepped up when a teammate went down, and that’s just another sign of a young team growing up,” North coach Brian Lytton said.
North (9-7, 9-2) moved into second place with the victory, passing West Montgomery (8-2), which beat North but lost on Thursday for the second time to league-leading South Davidson.
Branch had all 12 of Albemarle’s points as the first quarter ended 12-12. Amber Carter’s bank shot after a good pass by Robinson gave the Cavaliers a 27-all deadlock at the break.
“We gave them a challenge, and it was good, hard-fought battle, but we weren’t as into it mentally as we should’ve been,” said Albemarle coach Elbert Branch, who is Akela’s uncle. “We didn’t get some of the rebounds we should’ve gotten.”
North had to fight like crazy for every rebound. Sells and Farmer grabbed seven each. Fredejah Royer and Amber Carter had six apiece.
“Special is one of our most valuable players,” Carter said. “We know she’s going to be OK, but we wanted to get this win for her.”
Sells swung the game in North’s direction when she opened the second half with a swishing 3-pointer from the left corner. Barely a minute later, she buried another one from the same spot to push North to a 34-27 lead.
“Sells hit some very crucial shots,” Lytton said.
When Farmer and Anna Lingle teamed for a fastbreak bucket to end the quarter, North was ahead 46-38.
But it was a long way from over because in the fourth quarter Branch finally got some scoring help from little freshman guard Kyleigh McLendon.
McLendon banked a 3-pointer to lift the Bulldogs (5-11, 4-7)within 46-43 with six minutes left.
Farmer hit four straight free throws to give North breathing room, but McLendon hit another 3 to cut North’s lead to 53-50 with 3:31 remaining.
Royer, Farmer and Sells all were in foul trouble, so North slowed things down after McLendon’s 3, hoping to take some time off the clock and maybe get loose for a layup.
But when Sells found herself wide open behind the arc, she let it fly — and the ball swished for a six-point lead. It was one of those “no, no, no, no — attagirl” moments.
“I’m supposed to shoot it if I’m open like that,” Sells said. “We all had to step up a little bit and score with Special out.”
With Albemarle down four with 54 seconds left, Branch was called for an offensive foul in the lane.
That hurt the Bulldogs, and then Carter’s perfect bounce pass gave Royer a layup for a 59-53 North lead. That was the backbreaker.
The best news? Lytton is optimistic about Washington being able to return in a week or so.
ALBEMARLE (55) — Branch 30, McLendon 15, Davis-Hill 9, Currie 1, Hall, Dick, Bruton, Stanback, Barrino.
N. ROWAN (59) — Farmer 13, Robinson 12, Sells 11, Royer 7, Carter 5, Washington 4, Lingle 4, Allen 3.Albemarle 12 15 11 17 — 55North Rowan 12 15 19 13 — 59