North Rowan boys 75, Salisbury 60
By Mike London
North Rowan’s boys left the Salisbury gym floating on air and dreaming of championships.
Seniors Sam Starks and Javon Hargave earned lifetime bragging rights on Monday with a 75-60 victory in the Hornets’ packed gym.
“This game meant an awful lot to our program, but especially to the seniors,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “This was the last time they’ll play Salisbury. This was their last shot.”
The Cavaliers took their best shot, got 18 highlight-film points from Starks and put a lid on Salisbury superstar Darien Rankin, holding him to two harmless field goals.
North (8-3) broke a four-game losing streak in the series that included a 62-60 loss in Spencer to open this season and a bitter 79-77 overtime setback in a Sam Moir Christmas Classic semifinal.
“It’s always tough to win a third game against any team,” Salisbury coach Justin Morgan said. “It’s really hard to keep beating a team like North Rowan.”
Salisbury (6-4) struggled from the outset shooting the basketball.
“We couldn’t hit anything,” SHS guard John Knox said.
Rankin misfired on a thunder dunk early, and Salisbury trailed 19-12 after a quarter.
With Salisbury guard Corey Murphy collecting seven points in the second quarter, the Hornets made a mini-run, but North finished the half with an underhand scoop by freshman Michael Connor and a swooping runner by Pierre Givens for a 42-37 lead.
“The points Salisbury got in the first half were on offensive rebounds (primarily Jarrett Rivens),” Mitchell said. “We needed our guards to rebound more, and they did.”
North led just 42-40 a minute into the second half, but then the Cavaliers went on a tear where they did everything right on both ends.
Jordan Kimber drilled a hanger while being fouled by Murphy. Starks scored on a runout. T.J. Bates stuck a 3-pointer, and the lead was double digits.
The snowball kept rolling when North’s burly Javon Hargrave beat two Hornets for a bruising and-one.
Next, Hargrave did his best impression of Lorenzo Charles, snatching a missed halfcourt heave and sticking it in the hole to beat the third-quarter horn for a 59-45 lead.
“That’s when I knew we had it,” said Givens, who scored 15 points. “All the momentum was going our way.”
Starks broke loose for an emphatic jam early in the fourth quarter, a dunk that shouted that there would be no comeback by the home team.
“It was our last time against Salisbury, and we came here to go all-out for a win,” Starks explained. “I’ve been a little nervous about dunking because I had some fluid on my knee. But I’m back rocking it now, and everyone’s about to see a lot more plays like that.”
With his team on the ropes, Rankin tried to put the Hornets on his back, but his jumpers kept falling short, and the Cavaliers were bunching to keep him from driving.
“Darien’s a penetrator and a finisher,” Givens said. “But we kept him out of the lane.”
Mitchell explained that Rankin had to be the focus of the Cavs’ defense.
“Darien’s going to make plays if you don’t put two, three or four around him,” he said. “We made him go sideways, and then we took our chances with the other guys.”
Knox scored 16, mostly inside. Tion McCain nailed two 3s in the first half, but mostly the bombs of Knox, McCain and Murphy clanged off the iron and were quickly snared by guys wearing green.
When Givens picked off a pass and fed Starks with six minutes left, the Cavs led 65-45, North fans were screaming, and it was all over.
“We had a very bad offensive night,” Morgan said. “And when you’re not having a good shooting night, you have to pick it up and play really great defense. We didn’t do that.”
NORTH ROWAN (75) — Starks 18, Givens 15, Hargrave 12, T. Bates 10, Kimber 9, Connor 6, Ford 5, Bowman, Witherspoon A. Bates, Barber, Chambers.
SALISBURY (60) — Knox 16, Rivens 10, Murphy 9, Weant 9, McCain 7, Rankin 6, Petty 2, Morris 1, Wilkins, Adams, Duncan, Woods.
N. Rowan 19 23 17 16 — 75
Salisbury 12 25 8 15 — 60