Shaw column: North boys back on top of Moir

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2011

SALISBURY — If there were any questions about North Rowan’s boys basketball team, there shouldn’t be now.
Not after the Cavaliers rallied for a paper-thin victory over top-seeded Davie County in Thursday’s championship game — an envolution that was 11 years in the making.
And not after Oshon West, a junior who missed all of last season’s joyride to the state title, stuck the biggest jumper of the tournament with eight seconds to play.
And of course, not after Davie’s fate was sealed with a miss — and a putback that wouldn’t fall — as time expired, igniting an emotional explosion throughout Goodman Gym.
It was, most observers would have to agree, the kind of moment that makes your soul sing.
“It kind of choked me up,” coach Andrew Mitchell said postgame, moments after North won its first Classic since 2000. “When I saw the smiles on the faces of our players and the administrators and all the people who really wanted this for us, I was just so happy for everyone. It’s almost like winning a state championship.”
It’s what songwriter David Bowie might call a Total Blam-Blam, twin comets blazing a path across the evening sky. North, the second-seeded underdog, proved to be the little engine that could — and finally did.
“That’s a long time to wait,” senior Jordan Kimber said with a smile wider than the Yadkin River. “There was no holding back. We really wanted to get this one tonight.”
Lugging the hardware was teammate Pierre Givens, who went home with the two best-looking girls — a team-championship trophy and the MVP plaque. He turned the court into his magic kingdom with a sparkling, 23-point performance. Right from the start, it was clear his batteries were fully charged.
“I knew what we were playing for,” he said after netting 11 first-quarter points. “I knew what was at stake. I was ready in practice and ready in the game.”
It wasn’t a loud start for the Cavs. They trailed 14-9 late in the first quarter before Givens took the wheel and provided a cascade of offense — eight points in the last 2:15 of the period.
He kept the heat on Davie in the second quarter, scoring on a scoop layup and then an over-and-under bank shot from the baseline, lifting North to a 10-point halftime lead. ‘He had that fire in him, the kind that pulls the whole team’s energy up,” Mitchell said.
“I think everyone knew we’d have to work for this,” added big man Malik Ford. “We came out thinking defense first. Coach always says if we score two and they score one, we’re gonna win.”
Makes sense. But as quickly as an unexpected left hook stuns a prizefighter, North found itself trailing 42-39 when the Nate Jones took a backdoor pass from Davis Absher and scored with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter. The rest of this scratch-and-claw confrontation stuck to the script. In all there were eight lead changes, the last coming when West took a pass from teammate Michael Conner, squared up in the left corner and buried a 16-footer.
“Michael Connor looked for me,” West said after being named to the all-tournament team. “I’m thankful he did. I love knocking down big shots.”
It may have been a questionable choice, but Mitchell was overjoyed with the result. “What we wanted to do was spread the floor,” he said. “With the five guys out there, we felt very comfortable taking that shot. If it missed, that might have been the game because we didn’t have our big guys in there. At that time we wanted the shot more than we wanted a rebound.”
West made believers of everyone, including his coach. “Someday Oshon will be a big-time player,” Mitchell said. “His focus has always been on offense. Now we have him thinking about rebounding and defense. We told him, “One of these nights is gonna be your night.’”
Last night was. The Classic may be through but quite obviously, the Cavs are not.