Prep Basketball: North Rowan boys 64, South Davidson 56

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 3, 2012

By Ronnie Gallagher
SPENCER — It was a sight no one thought they’d ever see: North Rowan’s defending state 1A champions holding the ball against … South Davidson?
North Rowan coach Andrew Mitchell knew what he was doing.
The feisty Wildcats had hung around and hung around. They had the twins, Austin and Taylor Hatfield, who are always a flick of the wrist away from burying a three.
But South Davidson was also packed back in a zone.
“We wanted to make them come out,” Mitchell explained. “We thought if we could bring them out and spread the floor, we could get some easy shots.”
Mike Connor made his coach look like a genius. With the Cavs leading just 53-51 with under four minutes left, the smooth sophomore guard saw the Wildcat defense relax and he zipped in for a layup.
With a 55-51 cushion, North began a parade to the foul line, holding on for an entertaining 64-56 victory. It left North (10-2, 6-0) all alone in first place in the Yadkin Valley Conference.
“Out of everything that happened tonight, we were most proud we made free throws when it counted,” Mitchell beamed.
The Cavs finished 11-for-15 in the final 31/2 minutes, with Pierre Givens going 8-for-10 and scoring nine of his 19 points in the fourth.
“We were thinking, we can’t keep this game close,” said Givens, coming off a Moir Christmas Classic MVP performance.
If it felt like a state playoff atmosphere in Spencer Tuesday night, there’s a reason.
North, which found out last night it was ranked third in the state in 1A, made the plays on offense, defense and at the foul line down the stretch.
But believe this. South Davidson is no whipping boy.
Led by former Davie and East Rowan coach Jim Young, the Wildcats are suddenly one of the best teams in the state, ranked ninth in the latest poll.
Young knew where this game was lost, and he wasn’t pointing to the fourth quarter. It was midway through the second when the Wildcats (10-4, 4-2) led 21-20.
“We had a two minute brain fart,” he said. “We went away from running our stuff and kinda broke down.”
Connor, who had been in a recent shooting slump, started a 13-1 run with a 3-pointer. Michael Bowman muscled in a rebound. Oshon West hit two free throws, Connor a pretty runner and West a layup. When Givens drilled a three, North led 32-21.
It was 34-25 at the half.
The margin didn’t last for long. Austin Hatfield scored five quick points and South climbed within one. But it could never get over the hump. Twice in the second half, Austin Hatfield had chances to put North up but he missed from close range each time.
North’s win came down to stopping the Hatfields late.
“The twins can shoot,” whewed Mitchell. “We wanted to get on their shirt tail.”
Connor (15 points), West and Givens did just that.
“It wasn’t about scoring,” said West, who was a stat-sheet stuffer with 12 points, eight rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals. “We had to play defense.”
Another reason for pulling South out: Mitchell saw his players getting flustered by several calls against them.
“We took a couple of hard hits and got frustrated,” Mitchell said of the third quarter, when North scored nine points and led just 43-40 going into the fourth. “We told them they couldn’t cry over that.”
The Cavs refocused once Mitchell ordered the ball to be with Givens as much as possible when the Cavaliers began to slow it down.
“Whenever Pierre — or any of our guards — have the ball, we feel real comfortable,” Mitchell said.
Comfortable enough to be the only unbeaten team left in the YVC.
“Huge win,” Mitchell said. “To get out of here against a quality team is truly a blessing. We’re 6-0 now. Every game we play from this point is a big game.”
And if it’s a tight one, the Cavaliers would be smart to listen to this coach.
Andrew Mitchell knows what he’s doing.

NOTES: The Hatfields combined for 41 points, but made only two field goals in the fourth quarter. … Connor had just eight points in three Moir games so it was nice to see his offense. “We were hoping Mike would have a breakout game at a time like this,” Mitchell smiled. … North remains home on Friday when Gray Stone visits. … Before the girls game, it was “Joe Nixon Night” at the boosters club meeting, honoring the new football coach. How excited are they in Spencer? It was one of the largest booster club gatherings in recent memory.
SOUTH DAVIDSON (56) — A. Hatfield 23, T. Hatfield 19, Collins 6, Cook 4, Whitaker 2, Hughes 2.
NORTH ROWAN (64) — Givens 18, Connor 15, West 12, Ford 9, Kimber 4, Bowman 2, Watlington 2, Chambers 2.
S. Dav. 12 13 15 16 — 56
N. Rowan 12 22 9 21 — 64