Southern Rowan teams play Round 3

CHINA GROVE — South Rowan held its winter sports award banquet on Thursday, but one team received only verbal accolades instead of trophies and plaques.

That’s because South Rowan’s girls basketball team is still playing. In a season in which East Rowan and North Rowan won two championships apiece, it’s South which is the last Rowan girls team standing.

No. 13 seed South plays in the first game of a doubleheader at No. 12 seed Morganton Freedom tonight at 6:30 p.m. with a regional trip on the line.

South hasn’t reached the regional in 22 years.

“It’s awesome to still be playing,” South coach Jarrod Smith said. “But it’s not like we’re in a just-happy-to-be-there frame of mind. People ask me if Freedom is good, and I tell them sure they are, but everyone that’s still playing is good — and that includes us.”

Runner-up to East in the SPC regular season and tournament and 0-2 in a Sam Moir Christmas Classic where North trampled everyone, South (18-9) has overcome a mid-season six-game losing streak and has won 13 of its last 15, including home playoff victories against Southern Guilford and Carson.

The 18 wins are the most for South since 1999. The 1999 South team, which had four prolific scorers in Janetta Heggins, Jackie Wood, Latoya Ramsey and Abby Cress, had a first-round bye and won its second-round game. Those Raiders lost 66-64 — to Freedom — in a sectional final.

Freedom is one of the state’s storied girls programs, but it wasn’t supposed to be a sectional-final team this season.

The Patriots (20-8), coached by 200-game winner Amber Fox, lost three starters and then they lost three more girls who would’ve started because of injuries. That’s made them very young. Backcourt starters Ariyana Williams and Aramayah Corpening are both freshmen.

But the Patriots also are quite tall. Tamia Gidney is 5-foot-10, Krissy Surratt is 5-11, and sophomore center Amy Rhoney is 6-1.

“They are tall, a lot taller than us,” Smith said. “But we’ve seen size. Hickory Ridge has similar players to Freedom. A.L. Brown has long, tall players. And no one is taller than East Rowan.”

Smith started five sophomores last season. Now he starts four juniors and senior Lynsey Corriher, who missed her junior year with an ACL tear.

“Getting Lynsey back has been huge and a year of maturity for our girls has been huge,” Smith said. “Last year we were close, but we weren’t winning games. Now we’re winning the close ones.”

Two of South’s juniors are monster offensive players. Avery Locklear has scored 20 or more points in 13 of her 20 games. Locklear missed seven games with a broken hand. South went 2-5 when she was out, so the Raiders are 16-4 with her in the lineup.

Cassidy Chipman has scored 20 or more seven times and is South’s chief 3-point threat.

South has seen a steady diet of triangle-and-two defenses designed to contain Locklea and Chipman, and that’s made the recent return of Caroline Hubbard — she missed 20 games with a broken collarbone — very important.

“We know Sylvetta (Bost) can drive and we know Caroline and Lynsey are going to knock down open shots if teams play triangle-and-two,” Smith said. “And against man or zone, Avery and Chipman are usually going to be tough to stop.”

Freedom will be very good. Six of the Patriots’ eight losses are to Hickory and McDowell, and both of those powerhouse teams are still undefeated.

Carson boys at North Forsyth, 7 p.m.

Carson’s 16th-seeded boys are on the road again tonight after beating No. 1 Asheville Erwin 63-56 on Wednesday.

Eighth-seeded North Forsyth’s Kedrick Flomo made news in January when he astoundingly scored his team’s first 43 points — yes, the first 43 — in a victory over Asheboro.

Carson’s biggest task tonight will be containing Flomo, who has hit 72 3-pointers, and limiting him to reasonable numbers.

The Cougars can’t expect to completely stop the Appalachian State signee, who averages 28.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

“He’s a really good shooter and he makes deep 3s,” Carson coach Brian Perry said. “He’s also very good at getting to the rim.”

Flomo has scored 31, 40, 36 and 31 in his last four games. He finished with 48 in that amazing game with Asheboro.

As good as Flomo is, North Forsyth’s Vikings didn’t get to be 20-8 by being a one-man team.

Xavier Jackson averages 17.8 points a game. Like Flomo he can shoot it or drive it. Jackson hit six 3-pointers on Wednesday against Ashbrook as Jackson and Flomo combined for 60 points.

“They’ve got two outstanding guards and their other guys are very good at setting screens for them and getting them open,” Perry said.

Most of North Forsyth’s losses have been to the Winston 4As, including three to Mount Tabor, but the Vikings also have lost to 3As such as Ledford and Central Davidson.

Perry said often during the course of the season that the nightly battles in the SPC — Carson went 8-8 in the league and tied for third — would prepare his team for the playoffs. That theory was proven out in Wednesday’s victory at Erwin.

“It was the most physical game we’ve played all season, but Erwin did a lot of the things like teams in the SPC did,” Perry said. “They ran like Concord, and they were long like Northwest Cabarrus.

“Our guys just did a good job of staying composed in a place where almost all of the crowd was against them. (Point guard) Tre (Williams) is a heady player and he did good a job of handling the ball. We didn’t turn it over much and we got back on defense.”

Not long ago, Carson (17-11) was reeling and wasn’t playing much defense when it lost 82-67 to Northwest and 91-70 to Hickory Ridge in back-to-back SPC contests.

“But I think we started playing well again on Senior Night against Cox Mill, even though we lost,” Perry said. “Then we played three good games in the SPC tournament. Right now, I feel like we’re playing our best ball of the season.”

Carson has won four out of five since losing four straight in the SPC.

Colton Laws has scored in double figures in 27 of 28 games for the Cougars, while Williams has been in double figures 26 times. They combined for 38 in the win at Erwin.

Carson had never won a second-round game until Wednesday, so the 8-year-old school is in its first sectional final and looking for its first regional appearance.

Tip off is set for 7 p.m. in Winston-Salem.

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