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Northwest off to fast start

By Bill Kiser

Kannapolis Citizen

Northwest Cabarrus’ boys and girls basketball teams are right where both want to be entering the final games of both team’s non-conference schedules.

The Trojan girls are undefeated at 5-0 through the first two weeks of the 2006-2007 season, while Northwest’s boys are 4-1 after having its four-game winning streak snapped last week.

Both teams wrap up non-conference play this week, as Northwest Cabarrus traveled to county rival and perennial playoff contender Central Cabarrus on Tuesday, then hosts North Mecklenburg on Friday.

The Trojans open their North Piedmont Conference schedule on Dec. 19 with a home doubleheader against Lake Norman.

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Northwest’s girls extended its winning streak to five games by taking three close victories last week. Northwest rallied from a three-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Mt. Pleasant 47-35 Dec. 5, edged A.L. Brown 36-33 on Dec. 6, then overcame a second-half Concord rally for a 44-40 win on Dec. 8.

“They were all close,” first-year Northwest Cabarrus head coach Daryl Crego said. “We probably played the sloppiest game we played all year (against the Wonders), but you’ve got to win ugly sometimes.

“Surprisingly, defense has been the big thing for us — we’ve kept the score low, we execute what we have to execute and push the ball when we can.”

The Trojans have also displayed surprising offensive balance during their three recent wins. Against Mt. Pleasant, 11 players scores for Northwest, eight put in points against A.L. Brown and nine scored against Concord.

“That makes a big problem for other teams,” Crego said. “They don’t know who to guard, because everybody can score. I’ve got 12 girls, and I’ll play 11 or 12 every game. We’re in a great position to tire other teams out that can’t go as deep.

“We’ll push it as much as we can. Our sets are great, and we score very well out of them. But when we’ve got the opportunity to go, we’ll go.”

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Northwest’s boys won two out of three last week, dominating Mt. Pleasant 100-51 on Dec. 5 and beating A.L. Brown 66-58 on Dec. 6. But the Trojans saw their four-game winning streak snapped in a 50-49 loss to Concord, last year’s state 3A runner-up, on Dec. 8.

“It was a very evenly-matched game,” Northwest Cabarrus head coach Daniel Jenkins said of the Concord game. “Both teams have the same philosophy, we’ve both got some smart players and we both like to push the ball when the opportunity’s there.

“But it turned into a defensive battle, and it came down to them executing a few more times than we did. We turned it over a couple times when we couldn’t get a shot off. … That was the difference in the game.”

The Trojans have been paced by junior point guard Jon Hathcock, who leads the team in scoring (13.8 points per game), assists (5.8 per game), and 3-pointers (six) and free throws (15-of-23) made.

Two other Northwest players — juniors Brien Garcia and Ryen Black — are also scoring in double figures at 11.4 and 10.4 points per game, respectively, and 6-7 senior Roy Allison leads the team in rebounding (5.6 per game) and blocked shots (14 in five games).

“My guys are very confident, and they feel that they can play with anybody in the state,” Jenkins said. “It’s very encouraging. … Our non-conference schedule is as tough as anybodys. We get to play a few teams with different styles, and that helps prepare us (for the conference season).”

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Bill Kiser covers sports for the Kannapolis Citizen. Reach him at sports@salisburypost.com.

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