Prep Basketball: North Rowan goes for 1A title today

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 11, 2011

By Ronnie Gallagher
RALEIGH — North Rowan boys basketball coach Andrew Mitchell was startled out of a sound sleep earlier this week by his wife, Sandra.
“My wife, out of the blue, said, ‘Andrew!’ I jumped out of bed.”
He said Sandra chirped, “I’m just so excited that y’all got to the state.”
“When she gets excited, I know it’s an exciting time,” Mitchell smiled.
And why wouldn’t Rowan County be buzzing about this year’s North Rowan team. It has been 26 years since the Cavaliers won a state title. Today, they meet a talented Pender Patriot team that has won 24 straight games.
Game time is 2:30 p.m. in Reynolds Coliseum on the campus of N.C. State.
Pender lost the first four games of its season, all to 4A squads, before beating up on 1A competition. And as tall as North (26-5) is, Pender is even taller.
Keynon Pittman is the 6-foot-10 enforcer on Gary Battle’s team. He was named to the all-Regional team.
“His dad is 6-8 and played at UNC-Wilmington, said Battle, a 30-year veteran, noting the good genes.
But Addison Spruill is the one Mitchell is keeping an eye on. The 6-4 senior was the MVP of the Eastern Regional after scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a 74-65 win over Red Springs.
“He’s a big kid who can do a lot of different things,” Battle said. “He has a lot of confidence.”
Dominick Hand also made all-region. The 5-7 point guard is quick as a cat.
The other starters are 6-7 junior Blake Williford and 6-1 guard Javon Powell.
“They play real well together,” Battle said. “After we get the bright lights out of our eyes, we should be OK.”
The front line of 6-10, 6-7, 6-4 could scare many teams, but North Rowan isn’t one of them. The Cavs play pretty well together, too.
Six Cavaliers are between 11 and six points apiece. Javon Hargrave and Sam Starks each score at a 10.8 clip. Pierre Givens (8.6), Malik Ford (7.3), Michael Connor (6.9) and Jordan Kimber (6.5) have all had their moments.
“That’s what I like about these guys,” Mitchell said. “They have no concern about who scores. They all know they’re going to play. They’re so happy for each other. We’ve only got two people in double figures and we’re 26-5. Nobody thinks they have to score 20.
“And they’re willing to defend.”
The balanced scoring also says something about Mitchell, who is coaching the boys for the first time after two seasons of winning titles with the Salisbury girls.
“I didn’t know how we’d be able to get them to accept their roles — average 8 to 10 points and still feel like a major contributor,” he said.
Winning has a lot to do with it. The Cavs come in on a 10-game winning streak.
Pender may not have seen the shot-blocking abilities of the 6-7 Ford or the big butt of the 6-2 Hargrave inside.
“I don’t know anything about them,” Battle admitted. “I anticipate it’s going to be a good game. We prefer an up-tempo game but the tempo really doesn’t matter. It will probably come down to who makes the least mistakes.”
Mitchell doesn’t know much about Pender, either.
“We’ve seen every kind of style,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think they can come at us with anything we haven’t seen. We’ll just try to make the right adjustments.”
North is definitely a hot team. The 92 points the Cavs scored in the seven-point West Regional final win against Winston-Salem Prep was a season high.
“To get 92 on a stage like that is a blessing,” Mitchell said.
To get this far after 26 years of waiting has everyone in the county talking about the Green Machine. Even at a baseball game earlier this week at South Rowan, a Post reporter said all everyone wanted to talk about was North Rowan basketball.
A win today can keep the talk going for another 365 days.