Throwback tournament: North Meck 81, Carson 56
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Titus Ivory smiles even before the question is voiced, because he always know what’s coming when he sees a reporter with a notepad approaching.
Ivory is almost 32 now — thicker and less springy than the 21-year-old who led Penn State to a monumental 2001 NCAA tourney upset of North Carolina in New Orleans.
“That was a long time back, but everyone still seems to remember,” he said. “Yeah, people do bring it up, but I don’t mind. That night is something I’ll always be proud of.”
It was a great story. A North Mecklenburg graduate, Ivory wanted to go to North Carolina. The Tar Heels weren’t interested, so he ended up as an All-Big Ten performer for the Nittany Lions.
“Carolina had recruited my buddy Antawn (Jamison),” Ivory explained. “I thought I was good enough to go there too.”
Ivory had the last laugh.
Ivory directed another win on Thursday, although one of lesser magnitude than his vanquishing of a Tar Heel team that included giants Brendan Haywood and Kris Lang.
This time Ivory was the floorleader/coach for a North Mecklenburg alumni team that pulled away from Carson 81-56 in the opening game of Scooter Sherrill’s Alumni Throwback Tournament.
Ivory has recently gone to work for U.S. Airways after a decade-long pro career overseas. His roundball skills carried him to jobs in Italy, Lithuania, Belgium, Israel and The Philippines, and it’s easy to see why he was successful.
The 6-foot-4 muscleman didn’t shoot a lot, but he was skilled and powerful enough physically to get anywhere on the court he wanted to go.
“I’ve lost some quickness, so I have to use my body more,” Ivory said with a laugh.
North Meck is replacing Davie in this year’s Throwback event. Ivory said he got a call from Sherrill about a month ago, but the North Meck squad isn’t just a rag-tag band of guys who got to know each other on the drive to China Grove. They’ve played together in Charlotte leagues, and they were a more cohesive unit than Carson, a mix of Cougars and Kannapolis guys who fired up 3s on more than half of their possessions.
Scoring machine Avery Patterson, who starred at A.L. Brown and was a starter at St. John’s for a season, scored 22 points and kept things interesting for a half.
The turning point came when point guard Reggie Graham (21 points) arrived in the gym late in the first half and put on a white No. 23 jersey. A lefty with vision and several different gears, Graham immediately started carving up defenders with drives and slick passes.
“I’m happy he got here,” Ivory said. “He changed the tempo and the momentum.”
Carson’s Josh Doby, who had 10 points — two dunks and two 3-pointers — agreed Graham was the difference.
“That guy was tough,” he said. “He was so smooth. He’d go fast, but then he’d break you down slow.”
Carson trailed 31-27 at halftime, and it was 31-30 when Patterson struck from long distance to open the second half. But North Meck focused its defense on Patterson after that and shut him out the next 15 minutes.
“Avery’s very good,” Ivory said. “But we were able to let him settle for a lot of 3s and didn’t allow him to really get going the way he can.”
The highlight for Carson — and the crowd — came when Doby hammered down a dunk on a follow with 11:53 left to lift Carson within 40-35.
But barely three minutes after that, Ivory, Graham and hot-shooting Tory New had pushed North Meck’s lead to double digits. Then Carson ran out of gas, and it got one-sided.
“It happened really fast,” said Doby. “We were down six, I came out and got some water, and when I got back we were down 18. I felt like we had enough to compete with anybody here, but that’s a very tough team.”
Carson won’t play again until Saturday. North Meck tangles with West Rowan tonight at 7:45 p.m.
CARSON (56)— A. Patterson 22, Omar 10, Doby 10, Finger 6, Mason 4, Kosinski 4, Adams.
NORTH MECK (81) — Graham 21, New 20, Ivory 15, Hunsucker 8, Spencer 8, L. Patterson 7, McGill 2.
Carson 27 29 — 56
North Meck 31 50 — 81