North Rowan boys 55, North Moore 33
By Mike London
SPENCER — North Moore boys coach Grant Smith stared up at the scoreboard on the wall of the North Rowan gym with a mixture of disbelief, dismay and frustration.
The “Visitors” side of that scoreboard seemed to be stuck. North Moore stayed glued to “22” for nine long minutes.
YVC frontrunner North Rowan broke open a tight game in the second quarter and crushed contender North Moore 55-33 on Thursday.
The seventh-ranked Cavaliers (13-3, 9-0) were playing the second leg of four straight nights in the YVC, and they handled their latest challenge with relative ease.
“When North Moore walked on the court, I thought it would be lot different game,” North bruiser Javon Hargrave said. “They have athletes and they came out running right with us. I was sure we were in for a dogfight.”
For 11 minutes, the Cavaliers got all they wanted from the Mustangs (10-6, 7-3) and were clinging to a 21-20 lead.
Then T.J. Bates dished to Malik Ford for a layup, Bates knocked down two free throws, and the towering Ford finished at the rim again for a seven-point lead.
Burly post man Trever Farquharson answered with a pair of free throws for the Mustangs with 3:09 left in the half to make it 27-22, but the game would be decided before the visitors scored again — late in the third quarter.
A key to North Moore’s collapse was the third foul on guard Xavier Scotton, the Mustangs’ best athlete.
“When he went out, we really picked up our press,” North Rowan coach Andrew Mitchell said. “He was the key to the show for them.”
Suddenly, North Moore was challenged to get the ball to midcourt, much less score, and when Michael Connor lofted a perfect lob pass to a soaring Sam Starks for a dunk and a 31-22 lead a minute before the half, the gym started vibrating.
“We don’t shoot 3s very well, so our energy has to come from dunks,” Mitchell said with a smile. “That’s a play we just put in, but we executed well.”
Starks made two more free throws before the half, and the Cavaliers carried a 33-22 lead to the break.
“I thought we were keeping it simple, playing well as a team, especially on defense, and then Sam got his dunk,” Ford said. “Everyone knows Sam is the hype man. That got the whole place going.”
Starks opened the second half by swishing a 3-pointer, and not long after that, Scotton had his fourth foul.
North Rowan held North Moore scoreless for 51/2 minutes to begin the third quarter. By then, it was 41-22, and it was all over.
“The second half, we were rebounding better and playing defense better,” said Hargave, who had eight rebounds when he sat down after three quarters. “I thought Sam energized us, and our 1-3-1 defense really helped us.”
Ford finished with 10 points, eight boards and four blocks to lead North Rowan.
Scotton and Corbin Brock accounted for eight points each to lead North Moore, but the Mustangs made just five field goals after the break and didn’t get a point from the foul line.
“Obviously, we struggled after the first quarter and North Rowan just outplayed us,” Smith said. “We’re not an offensive team, we’re a defensive team, and we weren’t able to create any points at all with our defense.”
Smith had scouted North Rowan, and they were everything he thought they’d be.
“They’re quick, strong and athletic,” he said. “They play a physical game, and mentally we weren’t there tonight.”
It’s a grueling stretch for both teams. North Moore is in the midst of a swing of seven straight YVC road games.
North Rowan gets the biggest challenge of its tough grind tonight when Albemarle comes to Spencer. Albemarle is the only team that’s beaten the Cavs in a YVC game since they went to 1A.
“Albemarle goes 10 deep and they have two beasts on the glass,” Mitchell said. “We’ll have to dig deep.”
NORTH MOORE (33)— Scotton 8, Brock 8, Farquharson 6, Kennedy 5, Wallace 2, Barrett 2, Matthews 2, Maness, Bym, Marley.
NORTH ROWAN (55) — Ford 10, Givens 9, Hargrave 8, Connor 7, Starks 7, Bowman 6, Chambers 2, Kimber 2, A. Bates 2, T. Bates 2, Witherspoon, Barber.
N. Moore 13 9 7 4 — 33
N Rowan 12 21 16 6 — 55