Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2011
RALEIGH — The anatomy of a comeback includes a swish and a salute. If a Hollywood director were to make a movie about North Rowan’s compelling state championship victory, one must-have shot would have been Pierre Givens’ declaration.
The embodiment of the Cavaliers’ rally from 19 down to win their first state championship in 25 years came at the end of the third quarter right after Givens swished a trey.
Givens turned toward the North faithful and graced his forehead with two fingers, pushed them off and said, “We got this.”
Givens was only 4-of-13 from the field, but 1-for-1 on predictions. Once the Cavaliers’ horses got running, it might as well have been the final turn as Churchill Downs. The 47-42 deficit with eight minutes to play seemed miniscule.
“I was feeling it real good,” said Givens, a junior. “I was just telling them to keep swinging it to me and I was going to knock it down.”
For those who saw the first half, it was hard to believe North was in the game at all. Pender, winners of 24 straight coming into Saturday’s championship, led by as many as 19 in the second quarter and the Cavaliers faced a 39-25 deficit at halftime.
The third quarter saw the Cavs outscore Pender 17-8. Pender’s leading scorer Addison Spruill scored 25 points in the first half, but only managed seven in the second. By the time the trophies were handed out, North outscored Pender 39-18 in the last two quarters.
“If we were going to come back from down 19, it was going to be with a team like this,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “They never felt panic, never felt like they couldn’t come back.”
Divine intervention was mentioned after the game.
“The biggest statement I have to make is that God is good and we all trusted and believed and had faith that we could get to this point,” Mitchell said.
But certainly not during halftime when Mitchell’s assistants took the initiative.
“[Assistant] coach [Tim] Bates is a minister. He didn’t say anything out of the way, but he said it forcefully,” said Mitchell with a laugh.
Givens, clinging tightly to his championship plaque after the game, agreed the staff was paramount in ruffling some feathers.
Givens pulled his team within one with a layup in the fourth quarter and handed North a 57-54 edge by swishing a pair of free throws with 1:02 left.
“I loved the intensity at halftime,” Givens said. “The coaches came in and told us what to do so we could execute it when we went back out.”
Javon Hargrave, who’s frame helped negate Spruill, agreed.
“The speech at halftime motivated us and we knew we could get back in the game,” said Hargrave.
For Mitchell, another championship for the former Catawba star was a reminder of the talent he was graced with at Salisbury as well as North.
“In both situations, we’ve had great players. I don’t care how great a coach you are, try it without some great players.”
“The two to my right here (referring to Hargrave and Sam Starks) are two of the best players in the state.”
If he hasn’t already, Mitchell is quickly becoming one of the better coaches in the state.