Prep Basketball: North Rowan boys 60, Salisbury 54
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Twenty-eight seconds into Saturday’s game at Catawba, Salisbury had been whistled for three fouls.
Barely a minute later, North Rowan had three personals of its own.
It was a whistle-fest at Goodman Gym literally from the opening tip. North beat the Hornets 60-54 to stay unbeaten, but a huge crowd, which was treated to 73 free-throw attempts and just one dunk, probably exited feeling slightly short-changed.
“Everyone was excited to play, but it was a hard game,” North guard Pierre Givens said. “There were so many fouls early it was hard to get any flow going.”
North made only six field goals in the first half but still built a lead on the strength of 18-for-30 free-throw shooting. The Cavs were shooting one-and-ones less than four minutes into the contest.
“It was a frustrating game for the coaches and the players — and for the fans,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “The fans came to watch the players play.”
Givens led North (4-0) with 18 points. Salisbury (3-2) got a terrific outing from sophomore guard Buster Hillie, who hit three 3-pointers and scored 22 points.
Salisbury coach Jason Causby described his team’s outing as “encouraging.” Mostly because 24 hours earlier, the Hornets had been drilled 84-47 at Concord.
“We played a team on Friday that’s going to contend for a 3A championship, and we didn’t do anything right,” Causby said. “We played a team tonight that’s going to contend for a 1A championship, and we competed. We made a lot of mistakes, but we were trying hard.”
Causby came in with a handicap. Two Hornets were tardy for his pregame shootaround, and one of them was 6-foot-8 Tony Nunn.
So Nunn sat out the first quarter. His absence, coupled with foul trouble for Salisbury post men Tyler Petty and Keion Adams, gave North an opportunity to dominate the backboards , and the Cavs owned the glass for a half. Tydler Watlington and Oshon West jumped off Mitchell’s deep bench and teamed for 10 first-half boards.
“We work a lot on rebounding,” Mitchell said. “We feel like if we can get shots, we’ll get second chances, and we were getting shots.”
Petty scored inside and Hillie hit a 3-pointer as the Hornets chopped a 13-point deficit to 35-27 at halftime.
But North pushed the lead back to double digits early in the third quarter, with Givens scoring on a coast-to-coast drive and Jordan Kimber firing a floor-length pass to a streaking West for a layup.
“That was the most disappointing part of the night,” Causby said. “We had some momentum and wanted to make a push at the start of the second half, but we didn’t.”
The Hornets got a pair of surprise 3-pointers by jayvee callup Jaquez Finger to stay in the hunt.
North got a huge stickback by Michael Connor to stop one Hornet charge, but Salisbury battled within 54-49 with 1:12 remaining when Hillie connected on a spinning jumper.
North has too many veterans with state-title rings to panic, however.
“It was a really big crowd, but we just had to blank it out and listen to our coaches,” Givens said. “And we didn’t turn it over too many times.”
Givens and Kimber controlled the ball down the stretch, and Michael Bowman and Givens were deadly at the foul line late in the game.
“It’s hard to trap us with the experienced guards we put out there,” Mitchell said.
Causby praised North’s veterans, but he also has high hopes for his own team.
“Right now, it’s almost like we’ve been playing ourselves a little bit,” he said. “We’ve had distractions that we’ve got to move past. But once we can just focus on playing basketball games, we’ll be OK.”
SALISBURY (54) — B. Hillie 22, Nunn 10, Finger 6, Petty 5, Adams 4, Jones 3, Griffin 2, Banner 2, Duncan, K. Hillie, Tracey, McCain.
NORTH ROWAN (60) — Givens 18, Connor 12, West 8, Kimber 7, Bowman 5, Watlington 4, Ford 4, Chambers 2, Barber.
Salisbury 11 16 15 12 — 54
N. Rowan 19 16 10 15 — 60