Prep Basketball: North Rowan boys 77, East Montgomery 41
By David Shaw
SPENCER — North Rowan was a team without a mute button Tuesday night.
The defending 1A state champion used a quick start and a quicker finish to smother visiting East Montgomery, 77-41.
“I didn’t think it was gonna be very hard,” junior Malik Ford said after North (5-0, 4-0) took over sole possession of first place in the YVC. “We did what we were supposed to do — come out with intensity and keep it going. That’s all it was.”
The Cavs placed three scorers in double figures and played a suffocating defense that limited EM (4-4, 3-1) to 15 field goals.
“We just wanted to come out and share the ball,” coach Andrew Mitchell said. “Saturday night (against Salisbury) we didn’t do any of that. We got into one person standing around dribbling the ball five or six times. We’re a much better team when we can move and pass it around. We came out with that purpose, making sure everyone touched the ball and got nice, easy shots.”
They put on a clinic against the Eagles. North raced to a 15-5 lead in the opening four minutes and never looked back. Sophomore Michael Connor, part of Mitchell’s stable of do-everything guards, scored all 11 of his points in the opening period to help the Cavs mount a 25-12 edge.
“They’re defending state champs and right now they look better than they were last year,” gushed EM coach Erie Greene. “They’re pretty solid. The best way to beat that zone is to hit jump shots, but we didn’t. They took us out of our execution game early.”
Oshon West had 11 points and four assists for the Cavs and Ford, when he wasn’t plagued by foul trouble, was a low-post terror. He finished with 10 points and four blocked shots and was clearly a game-changer.
“You can tell when Malik is playing hard,” Mitchell said. “And despite all the foul trouble, he played hard tonight. Jordan (Kimber) and Pierre (Givens) did a nice job passing the ball around. When they can sacrifice themselves and look for others for the sake of the team, we are much tougher to play.”
West swished a couple of 3-pointers in the second quarter and Ford flushed a jam off a perfectly placed alley-oop pass from Connor that made it 46-22 late in the half. Ford later scored his final points on a dunk-you-very-much slam that opened the third quarter. Afterward, he offered a semi-apology.
“The truth is we didn’t have our best game,” he said. “We made too many mistakes. We still need to get better.”
East Montgomery was paced by guard Brandon Reza’s game-high 12 points. But the baskets were few and far between for the guests, who made their final field goal when Ahmad Baldwin knocked down a 3-pointer from the left side with 5:43 remaining. North used an 11-1 finishing kick to wrap it up.
“I think we were just ready to go get them,” West said. “Coach told us they were 3-0, same as us. That’s all we needed to know.”
Mitchell is happy to be living on the league’s top floor, but is leery of Friday night’s matchup at South Stanly. “I think they’re close to the bottom, but they’re not bad,” he said. “They’ve got super athletes. I can’t understand why they can’t get over the hump. If we go in and take them for granted, it could be one of those ugly nights.”
Greene doesn’t see it.
“They’re a coach’s dream here,” he said. “With the material he has, it’s a dream to coach them.”
EAST MONTGOMERY (41) — Reza 12, Baldwin 10, Johnson 4, Robinson 4, Cagle 4, Little 3, Pegues 2, Durham 2.
NORTH ROWAN (77) — West 11, Connor 11, Ford 10, Bowman 8, Chambers 7, Barber 7, Kimber 6, Watlington 6, Tate 6, Kelly 3, Givens 2, Ellis, Robinson.
E. Mont. 12 12 9 8 — 41
N. Rowan 25 21 14 17 — 77
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