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Moir Christmas Classic: North Rowan boys 64, East Rowan 52

By David Shaw
dshaw@salisburypost.com
– – See a gallery of photos from the game here. – – The future can’t happen soon enough for North Rowan’s boys basketball team.
The No. 2-seeded Cavaliers sidestepped a land mine in a Sam Moir Classic opener Monday at Goodman Gym, rallying in the second half to silence East Rowan 64-52.
Now they can’t wait to face South Rowan in today’s semifinal game.
“These guys were so excited to play today,” coach Kelly Everhart said after North (7-1) erased a 13-point second-quarter deficit. “It’s such a big event, the Christmas tournament. That’s why I’m surprised we didn’t come out in attack mode right from the tipoff. They were ready to take off.”
Instead, seventh-seeded East (2-8) refused to cooperate. The Mustangs were the little engine that could ó and nearly did. After missing their first seven shots from the floor, they caught fire midway through the first period and connected on 12 of 14 attempts during a frantic 51/2-minute flurry.
When senior Philip Ajayi threaded a long 3-pointer with 6:05 remaining in the first half, East owned a 28-15 lead.
“We were just executing,” Ajayi said after hitting 8 of 15 shots and netting a game-high 20 points. “Everything the coach was telling us to do, we hopped on.”
East coach Jim Lankford said the Mustangs had shortened their gait and convinced North to jog along.
“It was a slower pace, a pace we needed to play at,” he said. “And we were getting multiple touches. When three, four and five people handle the ball before a shot, good things happen for us.”
They stopped happening late in the second quarter. Oshon West’s 3-pointer from the right corner and Javon Hargrave’s 16-foot bank shot helped North inch within 30-26 with 2:08 remaining.
“We could feel the game turning,” Hargrave said after contributing 14 points, 16 rebounds and a couple of industrial-strength blocks. “By the end of the third quarter we knew we had it. We weren’t gonna let this one slip away.”
North trailed by five points at halftime but used a 9-0 run to move ahead in the third period.
Sophomore guard Pierre Givens (12 points) sank a fastbreak layup to tie the score 39-39 with 3:10 on the clock, then stole an inbounds pass underneath and hit another one three seconds later.
“I made the first one, then stuck my hand out, got the ball and made the second one,” Givens said.
Everhart certainly appreciated Givens’ effort.
“Those are instinct plays, not coaching plays,” he said. “We don’t draw those up. He just does them.”
No one made more authoritative plays down the stretch than Hargrave, North’s 6-foot-3 forward.
He finished 7-for-14 from the field, mostly on dribble drives down the lane. He muscled inside for an offensive rebound and putback that made it 52-44 with 5:11 to play. Two minutes later he penetrated for another layup and netted his final basket on an approach from the right baseline with 1:14 left.
“Javon was a beast inside,” Everhart said. “He allowed us to dictate the tempo.”
Hargrave’s strategy was simple: take what East was giving him.
“In the first half they were all in the lane, crushing me inside,” he said. “In the third quarter it all loosened up because we started knocking down jump shots.”
Lankford felt like North played a composed and steady game, while the Mustangs played two contrasting halves.
“That’s the way it’s been for us,” he said. “We play with folks for half a game or so, but we haven’t learned how to live with success. Tonight we just let them be physical and take over the boards.”
That suits Everhart fine.
“We finally played our game,” he said, “and now we’re really, really excited about playing again.”
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NOTES: East senior Brian Grohman suffered a sprained right ankle while driving toward the basket early in the third quarter. … The Mustangs face Davie County at 1:30 p.m. today. North and South meet at 4:30.
east ROWAN (52) ó Ajayi 20, Troutman 8, Joshua 6, Weber 4, O.Gittens 4, H.Gittens 3, Honeycutt 3, Grohman 2, Driver 2, Rogers, Wilson, Watkins, Sells, Curlee. north rowan (64) ó Hargrave 14, Givens 12, Chambers 11, West 8, Sims 7, Barker 6, Starks 2, Witherspoon 2, Ford 2, Bush, Smyre.E. Rowan 18 17 7 10 ó 52
N. Rowan 10 20 14 20 ó 64

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