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Prep Basketball: The Notebook

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
The prep basketball notebook …
North Rowan’s boys and Salisbury’s girls were winners in Saturday’s doubleheader at Catawba that attracted a Christmas-tournament-sized crowd and provided a state-playoff atmosphere.
North was the home team. Salisbury will be the host for the rematch at Goodman Gym this Saturday.
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BANNER NIGHT: After Salisbury’s Darius Banner reported to the scorer’s table during Saturday’s game with North Rowan, North scorekeeper Sallie Hundley politely raised her hand like the smart kid in the first row of the classroom and summoned the nearest official to the table.
Banner wasn’t listed in the scorebooks, so North’s Michael Connor had a chance to shoot technical free throws.
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COMEBACK: North junior guard T.J. Bates, the team’s defensive stopper and one of the keys to last year’s 1A state championship run, hasn’t played yet because of a torn ACL.
The plan is for Bates to postpone surgery until after the season. He hopes to start playing with a knee brace on Dec. 21. That’s when North is scheduled to play at home against West Rowan.
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BALANCE: Connor leads the Cavaliers with a modest 10.3 points per game scoring average that ranks 11th in the county.
But don’t worry about the Cavaliers. North again has amazing depth and balance. Seven players average 6.0 ppg or better.
North won a state title last year with Sam Starks scoring a team-high 11.1 ppg.
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CAREER HIGHS: Salisbury sophomore Brielle Blaire had four veteran stars around to share the scoring load last season, but this season she’s the Hornets’ go-to girl every night.
She’s responded. She produced career-high points three straight games last week — 23, then 26, then 29 — as the Hornets improved to 5-1.
“She’s a very special talent,” East coach Danielle Porter said after Blaire tossed in 20 earlier this season against the Mustangs.
Blaire does more than score. She sat down for good with 3:40 remaining on Saturday, but she already had 23 rebounds against North, more than half of them on the offensive end.
On one possession against the Cavaliers, Blaire grabbed three offensive boards and finally got a stickback on her fourth try.
“I just keep jumping until the ball goes through the net,” she said with a smile.
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No. 1: North senior Teaunna Cuthbertson is the career scoring leader among active county girls.
She’s off to a nice start this season, with 45 points in North’s first four games. She now has 736 for her career.
West’s Shay Steele is the career scoring leader for Rowan junior girls with 633 points. Blaire has 462 points to lead the sophomores.
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FREQUENT FLYERS: South Rowan was saddled with an NBA-style, six-game road trip schedule to open the season. The Raiders visited Mooresville and five different SPC venues — Central Cabarrus, Northwest Cabarrus, A.L. Brown, Cox Mill and Mount Pleasant — before finally getting to play heir home opener against the Wonders on Friday.
“I feel like we’re the Bobcats flying into Charlotte out of Denver,” said weary South boys coach John Davis, after his foul-plagued team earned its only win of the season — 74-73 in overtime — at Mount Pleasant on Thursday night.
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HANG IN THERE: South’s 80-77 setback against A.L. Brown’s boys on Friday was the third tight loss of the young season for the Raiders.
It was the 197th career loss for Davis, who has persevered through some lean years. This is his 13th season at the South helm.
Only three Rowan boys head coaches have had the necessary longevity and patience to be on the losing end of 200 varsity games — North Hall of Famer Walt Baker (231-219 in 20 seasons), South’s Bob Parker (182-220 in 17 seasons) and East’s Rick Roseman (113-204 in 13 seasons).
Davis is one of 15 Rowan boys coaches to reach the 100-win plateau. He’s 13th on all the all-time wins list with 107.
Salisbury’s Jason Causby is just above him with 111.
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SWEEPSTAKES: When South’s boys and girls swept a doubleheader at Mount Pleasant, it broke a drought. The Raiders had played a string of 20 doubleheaders without a sweep.
The last time both South teams had won on the same night was against Cox Mill early in the 2010-11 season.
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GOLD MEDLIN: After a slow start, South junior Josh Medlin has heated up. He’s scored 45 points in the Raiders’ last two games.
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INTO THE FIRE: South’s girls (3-4) will find out early if they can expect any success in the NPC. The Raiders play West Rowan, North Iredell and Carson, expected to be the league’s three top teams, back-to-back-to-back in December.
The Raiders will play 12 games before Christmas.
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ON AND OFF: South’s girls romped with surprising ease at Mount Pleasant, just a few days after Mount’s Tigers won in East Rowan’s gym.
Mount Pleasant coach Neil Pifer offered an explanation.
“Shooters come and go,” he said. “One of our girls that scored 18 against East scored two against South.”
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FAST START: East Rowan’s boys are 3-4, which may not sound like front-page material, but this is the Mustangs’ best stretch in a while.
East dropped 10 of its last 12 games in 2008-09, then posted 2-19 and 1-20 marks the next two seasons. When the Mustangs opened this season with three consecutive losses, it meant they had lost 52 of 57 games.
But suddenly they’ve won three out of four under coach Trey Ledbetter, and the one loss in that four-game stretch was a 47-44 setback to Salisbury in which the Hornets were pretty fortunate to escape the East gym.
Jordan Shepherd and Hakeem Gittens have sparked the Mustangs’ resurgence.
Shepherd has scored in double figures five times and had a career-best 24 in a 60-41 win against Northwest Cabarrus.
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BLOWOUT: The 19-point margin of victory in the Northwest game was the most lopsided victory for the East boys since Daniel Plummer led a 94-54 wipeout of North Iredell in 2009.
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UP AND DOWN: Carson’s boys have gotten huge individual games from Tre Williams, Colton Laws, Dontae Gilbert and Myquon Stout this season, but they’ve had a hard time putting it all together at the same time.
The Cougars’ 2-5 mark could easily be 4-3. They lost in overtime to A.L. Brown and in double-OT to Cox Mill.
The double-OT game wasn’t the longest in Carson boys history. The Cougars battled West Iredell for three overtime periods before losing in 2007.
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FRESH FACE: Freshman post player Alex Allen has already scored in double figures three times, adding to Carson’s firepower.
Allen’s play has been big with Tyesha Phillips missing some games with an ankle injury.
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TOP SEED? Carson’s girls play four more games before Christmas and barring a major upset they will enter the Sam Moir Classic with an 11-0 record. Seeds are based on this season’s records, so that would make them the No. 1 seed.
Salisbury has won eight straight Moir titles, but the Hornets have lost a game this season to 4A power Hopewell.
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MOST IMPROVED: The county’s most improved players?
It’s early, but at this point you could vote for South’s Shawn Spry and Carson’s Sarrah Holman.
Spry was on the South varsity as a freshman but didn’t play much and scored 37 points all season. As a sophomore, the guard is averaging 11.3 ppg.
Holman started for the Cougars as a junior and averaged 6.6 points per game. As a senior, she’s already had games of 21 and 22 points.
Carson puts four players on the floor — Holman, Kelly Dulkoski, Allison Blackwell and Chloe Monroe — who have enjoyed 20-point games in their careers. That helps explain how the Cougars (7-0) scored 75 or more in each of their first four games.
Monroe, Blackwell and Dulkoski rank 1-2-3 on Carson’s career scoring list.
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UP AND DOWN: West Rowan senior Keshun Sherrill has been off a bit from outside in the Falcons’ first three games, but he’s still boosted his career scoring total to 1,353 points.
Sherrill is on the verge of joining the ranks of West’s all-time top five scorers.
Given the Falcons’ illustrious basketball history, that’s quite an achievement.
Joel Fleming, a standout guard from the 1990s who went on to play at Western Carolina, currently ranks fifth with 1,357 points.
Sherrill can also surpass several of the county’s all-time best as early as tonight — Salisbury’s Darien Rankin (1,358), North’s Jimmy Kesler (1,359) and Carson’s Darius Moose (1,376).
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TOUGH SCHEDULE: West boys coach Mike Gurley wasn’t overly distressed about expected early non-conference losses to 4A schools Lake Norman and Davie, but he’d prefer to be opening NPC play tonight against someone other than Statesville.
The Falcons and Greyhounds have met in the championship game of the last two NPC tournaments.
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MILESTONE: Davie senior Shannon Dillard enters this week’s games with 993 career points.
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FILLING IT UP: It’s early, but Davie guard Nate Jones (28.0 ppg) is on pace to challenge the single-season school record set by Dwayne Grant in the 1970s.
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GET WELL SOON: Knees have been the largest obstacle for A.L. Brown’s basketball teams.
Aaliyah Spears, the leading returning scorer and the primary ballhandler for the girls, went down with a knee injury in a loss at Carson.
Tevin Stark, a certain star for the A.L. Brown boys, hurt a knee in the second game of the season at Anson.
The Wonder boys (4-1) still have plenty of firepower with Derrick Copeland, Braxton Waddell and Michael Carr, but the girls (2-3) can’t really replace Spears.

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