BISCOE — North Rowan was a polite guest to East Montgomery Wednesday, letting the Eagles hang around with a top-5 team in the state in its final game on its home floor.
North scored 15 straight points to start the second half to beat East 78-51 and advance to another Yadkin Valley Conference tournament championship game.
North was technically the host as the league’s top seed and made themselves at home in the third quarter, extending its lead that was just six late in the first half beyond 30 points. The patented spurt came on the heels of a back-to-basics chat at halftime.
“Coach told us to start posting up and going to the rim,” said senior Oshon West after scoring a game-high 24 points. “We started doing it.”
And it led to the season’s 15th straight win. North earned the right to play in its fourth straight YVC championship Friday against the winner of the today’s North Moore-Albemarle game.
Starters Dalton Nelson and Michael Connor were hit with three fouls each in the first half and T.J. Bates, West and Sanders each had two apiece. It was a moot point after the break.
“We couldn’t worry about the calls and play the game,” Mitchell said. “We’re at our best when we’re not worrying about what other people are doing.”
The Cavs looked sound early with a trey from West on their first possession. West dunked an open-court beauty shortly thereafter and it looked like another North romp. A putback from West and a jumper from freshman Jalen Sanders helped North take a 20-9 lead into the second quarter.
East pulled to within five by getting to the line and netting 7 of the first 8 points of the quarter. The Eagles hindered North’s offense with a zone defense that confined the foul-hindered Cavs to jump shots.
“The first half we kept them contained somewhat,” East coach Buggy Green said. “We started turning the ball over and it turned into their game. They’re too darn athletic for us to play their game.”
West provided a big lift with a three-point play to push it back out to 24-16. Little kept East in it with a follow up basket to pull within 26-20. Sanders sank two free throws and drained a floater in the lane to get some breathing room and West and Sanders got consecutive three-point plays as North was up 38-25 at halftime.
After West and Nelson hit shots to start the second half, Bowman caught an alley oop and Connor stole the inbounds pass for an easy layup to crush any miracle hopes for East, who played for the second-straight night. Like the rest of the YVC, East could only provide a speed bump when the Cavs put the pedal to the floor.
“If you don’t take care of the ball, it turns into layups,” Green said. “I thought in the second half we sort of unfolded. You’ve got to be on your A game to beat a team like them.”
Bowman worked around foul trouble to finish with 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Jalen Sanders scored 18 points to continue his late-season renaissance and Shareef Walker notched 11.
Little led the Eagles with 19 points. North emptied its bench in the second half, getting much-needed rest for its starters with the playoffs starting next week.
“East Montgomery had a good game plan,” Mitchell said. “They made us do some things we didn’t want to do. Once we figured it out and made adjustments the guys did a good job.”
No. 1 center Malik Ford missed another game nursing an injury. Mitchell says Ford hopes to be ready for Friday.
EAST MONTGOMERY (51) —Little 19, Scott 9, Pegues 7, Mrrison 6, Baldwin 5, Smith 3, Robinson 2.
NORTH ROWAN (78) — West 24, Sanders 18, Bowman 13, Walker 11, Bates 3, D. Nelson 3, Tate 2, Connor 2, Archie 1, Handy 1, Ellis, Billingsly, B. Nelson.
E. Mont. 9 16 9 17 — 51
N. Rowan 20 18 26 14 — 78