Basketball Playoffs: Round 2 tonight
SPENCER — The difference in 1A and 2A basketball will be on display tonight in Spencer when the Cavaliers host East Lincoln in a 7 p.m. Round 2 contest that promises the quality of a regional game.
North Rowan’s 1A second-round playoff games the past three seasons included two romps and one 10-point decision that was a pretty good ballgame.
Making a playoff run in the 1A ranks for North, when it came right down to it, was just a matter of surviving against Monroe to get a shot at Winston-Salem Prep.
But 2A is always much deeper than 1A, and the depth of the classification was enhanced by the realignment that elevated North and Monroe from 1A to 2A and brought Gastonia Hunter Huss down from 3A to 2A.
How deep is the 2A boys field? Well, East Lincoln, seeded 10th in the 32-team bracket, scored 96 points in Monday’s first round. East Rutherford, the No. 11 seed, scored 93.
Tonight’s matchup in Spencer includes two teams ranked in the top 10 in the state media poll. East Lincoln (24-3) is ranked fifth. North (17-5) is ranked 10th.
Bracket-wise, North is the higher seed at No. 7. North was seeded as a conference champion while East Lincoln was seeded as a conference runner-up. That’s why this game is being played in Spencer rather than Denver.
“Everyone is tough this time of year,” said North coach Andrew Mitchell, who is 96-18 in four seasons and piloted the Cavaliers to the 2011 1A state title. “But to play a team as good as East Lincoln in the second round — that’s really tough.”
There are no sure things in one-and-done playoffs, but there’s a 99-percent chance that whoever survives the North-East Lincoln matchup will head to Shelby Friday. Shelby is ranked No. 1 by the media and is the No. 2 team in the NCHSAA bracket behind unbeaten Smoky Mountain.
North and East Lincoln know each other. They went head-to-head this summer.
“East Lincoln is a very solid team,” Mitchell said. “We pulled away from them very late this summer, so we know we’re capable of beating them, but it was quite a game we had with them.”
North is an experienced team. Steady seniors Michael Connor and Michael Bowman are almost automatic for 15-18 points every night. Senior Kenyon Tatum, who played in a 4A regional final with Davie two years ago, is a high-riser and has asserted his astounding athletic ability in recent games. Sophomore Jalen Sanders, fast, skilled and a good shooter, already is attracting Division I attention.
North knows what it will get from those four. It also may need a stout game from Josh Handy, Dalton Nelson, Joe Scott, Alexis Archie, Paris Hillie or Shareef Walker to advance past tonight.
East Lincoln is young but talented.
Brothers Chazz and Sage Surratt are the top scorers. Chazz is a sophomore, while Sage is a freshman. Chazz averages 21.1 points per game for a team that racks up an average of 77. Sage averages 18.1.
Chazz owns seven double-doubles this season and had 22 points and 13 rebounds when East Lincoln beat Southern District-7 champion Newton-Conover in last week’s conference tournament championship game.
“The older one is built like (Alexis) Archie, runs the team, scores, penetrates and is an exceptional free-throw shooter,” Mitchell said. “The younger one is long, fast, and he can shoot.”
East Lincoln, coached by Neil Hodges, also has size. Mitchell said that Charlie Hills, 6-foot-7, is active enough that East Lincoln will use him as the point man on its press. Hills averages 10.1 points per game. Hayden Duggins, who is 6-3, averages 6.8.
“We do have the more experienced team, and we’re hoping that will come into play,” Mitchell said. “But we’re not discounting East Lincoln just because they’re young. After all, Jalen (Sanders) is only a sophomore, but he’s an outstanding player.”
Carson girls at South Rowan (7 p.m)
It’s a backyard rivalry game that doesn’t need any hype.
Carson, a No. 29 seed and a fifth-place finisher in the SPC, pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the first round by beating fourth-seeded SPC champion East Rowan.
Carson (13-12) ended East’s 12-game winning streak with a fierce defensive effort. Sydney Huffman, Kate Cole and Alex Allen scored in double figures for coach Brooke Misenheimer’s Cougars.
Carson is 6-2 in its last eight games.
South (17-9) was the second-place team in the SPC in the regular season as well as the tournament and is a No. 13 seed. Avery Locklear’s 29 points propelled South to a first-round win over Southern Guilford.
Coach’s Jarrod Smith’s Raiders are 14-2 in their last 16 games.
Carson and South split SPC meetings. Carson won 49-47 in December. South rolled 63-44 in the rematch.
Locklear has scored 45 points in the two games with the Cougars, but Carson has held South’s other big scorer, Cassidy Chipman, to 16.
Allen has scored 37 in her two games against the Raiders, while Cole has scored 22.
Carson boys at Asheville Erwin (8 p.m.)
The good news about Carson’s No. 16 seed was a first-round home game. The bad news about being No. 16 is it means a second-round trip to play the No. 1 team in the 3A West bracket.
Carson (15-11) faces a daunting task tonight at unbeaten Asheville Erwin, which averages 90.3 points per game. The Cougars will try to keep the pace to a game in the 60s or 70s.
Erwin (23-0) is ranked No. 1 in 3A by the media and has topped 100 points three times. Maybe the most impressive stat is that Erwin’s lowest offensive output all season came in 73-63 win against McDowell.
Erwin, coached by David Rhoney, has a balanced team. Malik Moore, a 6-4 junior, averages 16.7 points and 8.5 rebounds. Jeremiah Jackson, who is 6-3, and 6-0 Brennan Howard also average double figures for the Warriors. Moore scored 22 as Erwin won 88-58 against Central Davidson in the first round.
Carson coach Brian Perry will count on seniors Colton Laws and Tre Williams one more time, and junior Jacob Raper is coming off his best game of the season on Monday. Junior Marquez McCain is the X-factor for the Cougars.
Carson upset highly ranked Concord last week, so the Cougars will take some confidence to the mountains.
The late start time is due to the Erwin girls also hosting a second-round game tonight.