Moir Christmas Classic: Boys Championship: North 60, Davie 59
By Mike London
SALISBURY — In the final seconds, Cody Martin’s driving bank shot wouldn’t fall for Davie County and neither would the soaring tip attempts by Nate Jones and Shannon Dillard that followed.
Potential agony turned into ecstasy for North Rowan coach Andrew Mitchell, who went from watching helplessly and praying silently to hugging everyone in sight when the horn sounded and North’s 60-59 win against the War Eagles became official.
Led by MVP Pierre Givens, the second-seeded Cavaliers (9-2) weathered 30 points by amazing Davie guard Nate Jones to win their first Sam Moir Christmas Classic since 2000. All-tournament pick Oshon West drilled the tourney-turning shot with eight seconds left.
“Anytime you win a championship, it’s an awesome feeling,” Mitchell said. “It’s great to see smiles on everyone’s faces.”
Top-seeded Davie’s final failed flurry on the glass may have been the only time all night the War Eagles controlled the boards. North crushed Davie 47-29 on the glass.
“That was the difference,” Davie coach Mike Absher said. “North was the more physical and more aggressive team, although we did ante up some in the second half. They got 23 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points. You can’t allow that happen.”
It happened, although there was no one guy responsible for all that glass-eating. Givens, Tydler Watlington, Michael Connor, Michael Bowman and Malik Ford collectively put on hardhats, grabbed lunchpails and went to work. All five had at least three offensive boards.
“That’s a heck of a ballteam,” Jones said. “It’s not like we didn’t play pretty good, but they just got too many offensive rebounds.”
Davie (10-2) played without injured Caleb Martin, but it got a huge boost when Jones, suspended for Davie’s semifinal game, jumped off the bench and started scoring at will.
“As soon as he went in, we ran an inbounds play for him,” Absher explained. “We knew we needed to get Nate going.”
Jones buried that first look and a lot more.
“I’d been out a few games, but I was focused,” he said. “I was open, so I pulled it.”
A minute later, the 5-foot-11 Jones was tomahawking a fastbreak dunk that had an overflow crowd screaming, but Givens kept North composed. He had 11 by the end of the first quarter, and the Cavs led 17-14.
Then North controlled the second quarter, ending the half with a 37-27 lead when Watlington took a charge.
Davie played mostly 2-3 zone in the second half. That cut down on Givens’ penetration, and the War Eagles, with Jones scoring from everywhere, quickly erased all of their deficit. Davie inched ahead 40-39 when Jones dribbled between his legs before calmly swishing another 3.
“I guess we played pretty good defense on him,” Mitchell said. “He got 30, but he can get 40.”
North finished the third quarter strong, with Givens flipping in a shot over the outstretched arms of Dillard and West shrugging off a physical bump inside for a hard-earned bucket and a 49-44 lead.
A dunk by Ford put North ahead by six early in the fourth quarter, but Jones brought the War Eagles right back, and the teams headed for the stretch run.
A twisting drive by West put the Cavaliers ahead 56-54 with 1:50 left, but Martin’s finger-roll quickly tied it.
Watlington’s stickback with 40 seconds left put North on top 58-56, but Dillard was fouled with 25 seconds to go.
He made a free throw, and when he missed the second, the 6-6 Martin jumped over smaller Cavs to put Davie ahead 59-58.
“I was kicking myself because I’d taken out our big guys, and then Davie got that rebound,” Mitchell said. “ But I stayed with the guys we had in there. We had confidence all of them could make a shot. We spread the floor and thought we’d get something.”
West got the open shot from the left side, and he nailed it. After a timeout. Davie had the ball in its backcourt with 6.4 seconds left.
“Something we practice every day,” Absher said. “That’s a lot of time. Enough to take the ball all the way.”
That’s what Martin did. He got all the way to the rim. It just didn’t fall. Neither did the tips. Martin and Jones collapsed to the floor, as Dillard punched the ball like a boxer.
And North fans celebrated.
“A good win for us,” a beaming Givens said. “Hard played. Just very hard played against a very good team.”
NORTH ROWAN (60) — Givens 23, West 14, Bowman 7, Kimber 7, Ford 4, Watlington 4, Chambers 1, Connor.
DAVIE COUNTY (59) — Jones 30, Dillard 16, Co. Martin 9, Tatum 4, Absher, Sell.
N. Rowan 17 20 12 11 — 60
Davie 14 13 17 15 — 59