Trojans look to take of business
By Bill Kiser
Northwest Cabarrus boys basketball coach Daniel Jenkins has been preaching all year to his players the importance of every game.
But the next two games on the schedule are very important ones to the Trojans — games that could mean the difference between playing at home or on the road in the opening round of the state playoffs.
Northwest closes out its regular-season schedule this week with a pair of home games, hosting North Iredell on Tuesday and West Iredell on Friday in the season finale.
The Trojans’ boys (16-6, 8-4 North Piedmont Conference) enter the final week of the regular season riding a three-game winning streak, with all three coming by 20-plus-point margins.
That streak includes a 79-58 victory over West Rowan on Jan. 30 — the first NPC loss suffered by the Falcons this season — and a resounding 92-50 win over Carson on Feb. 2.
Should Northwest run the table to close out the season, it could wind up with a share of second place in the NPC standings. That’s where the win over West Rowan would come into play, since records against higher-finishing teams is one of the tiebreakers.
“They’re all big now — but these two coming up are really big,” Jenkins said. “(Second place is) what we’re hoping for. A lot of it is going to depend on what happens with Lake Norman and West (Tuesday night) … but we can’t worry about that.
“We just can’t worry about that — we have to take care of ourselves first.”
Of course, the Trojans first have to get past North Iredell (12-8, 6-6), one of the league’s top offensive teams. Northwest won its first meeting against the Raiders 64-58 in Olin on Jan. 5.
“We expect a tough match,” Jenkins said. “They’re a well-coached team (by Tony Davenport) and very athletic. … We’re really going to have to be active on the defensive side and really get a hand in their faces.”
The Trojans then close out against the Warriors — who beat Northwest 67-54 in Statesville on Jan. 19 — one of the NPC’s toughest defensive teams.
“We have to change our whole frame of mind against them because they are so physical,” Jenkins said. “They just beat you down. That’s what happened the last time we played them — they pounded us and made shots, and we didn’t. … Hopefully things will change for us this time.”
Northwest Cabarrus’ girls (11-11, 5-7) are in somewhat of a similar situation, overcoming mid-season turmoil after Moses Smith replaced Daryl Crego as head coach to put together a three-game winning streak.
Included in the Trojans’ recent streak are wins over West Rowan (48-43 on Jan. 30) and Carson (44-22 on Feb. 2).
“We’re taking it one game at a time, so that means (Tuesday’s) game is the most important to us right now,” Smith said.
“I’ve been stressing that we come out and play hard, and do all the important things … but that we also come out and have some fun. Sometimes we put so much stress on the other things that we forget to tell these kids to have fun.”
Northwest Cabarrus is currently tied with West Rowan for fifth place in the league standings, but closing out the regular season with a pair of wins — and NWC has already lost to North (65-61 in overtime on Jan. 5) and West Iredell (43-39 on Jan. 19) this season — could leave the Trojans in position to claim a share of third place.
“We’ve talked about that, but we’re kinda scared of looking that far ahead,” Smith said. “But the kids are really high on themselves right now, and really working hard. They’re looking forward to this week’s games.”
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