Prep Basketball: North Rowan 69, West Rowan 62

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2012

By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — North Rowan guard Pierre Givens stood calmly at the foul line with 1:46 remaining.
The revenge-minded Cavaliers led West Rowan by three points, the crowd in the West gym was going crazy, and Givens knew he had to do everything just right.
“Yeah, bend the knees, Givens said. “Then I took a deep breath. But I missed.”
And then he missed again.
Didn’t hang his head, though. He chased down the rebound after his second misfire, scooped the ball into the hoop and got fouled again.
“Just knew I had to crash the boards,” Givens said with grin of a winner. “Crash the boards and play defense — that’s all we’d talked about.”
Givens’ bucket after missing two free throws was the backbreaker in North’s ferocious 69-62 victory, and it was just one of many stickbacks.
North, a 1A beast, gave West, a good 3A squad, a glass-kicking for 32 minutes. The third-ranked Cavaliers (13-2) smashed the Falcons 20-7 in the offensive-rebound column. That was the difference.
“North did a whole lot of good things,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “The No. 1 thing was the job they did on their offensive glass. But you also have to give Coach (Andrew) Mitchell credit for throwing a lot of different defensive looks at Keshun Sherrill. And North made free throws a lot better than the first time we played them.”
North went 16-for-27 at the foul line and picked up 11 vital points on free throws in the fourth quarter.
North threw everything it had at Sherrill— usually Givens or Michael Connor, plus help — but he still scored 30 despite a quiet first five minutes. But he had 37 when West beat North in Spencer, so the Cavs could live with 30. It was the ninth time in his career he’s scored 30 or more.
“Keshun is very smart,” Givens said. “He knows how to use a pick, and once he gets a step, it’s hard to recover.”
North recovered some pride after a painful 85-71 loss to its rival in Spencer on Dec. 21. Since that setback, North has reeled off seven impressive wins against 1As, 3As and 4As.
“I appreciate the effort all our guys gave tonight,” Mitchell said. “We rebounded and we made free throws, and if you do that, you’ll usually win.”
Connor, a sophomore, was dazzling early, scoring nine of his 14 in the opening minutes. But once Sherrill found the range, it was a wall-to-wall scrap.
Despite its blazing early shooting, North led just 36-33 at halftime. Sherrill had 15 at the break, and while West (8-7) was playing without injured Alexis Archie (broken knuckle), Gurley got two 3s from Seth Martin and great energy from hustlers Najee Tucker and Daisean Reddick.
Mitchell has eight potential starters and can go with a quick team or a big team. It was his big unit that ultimately decided this one — especially Daniel Chambers, a 6-foot-5 senior.
“In the locker room before the game Coach (Tim) Bates told Daniel and Tydler (Watlington) that they were going to be the difference,” Mitchell said. “He was right. They both played very key roles.”
Chambers’ evening started late. He didn’t play at all in the first half. But he finished with 12 points, including nine in the fourth quarter.
“I was ready to play,” Chambers said. “When I got in, I was ready to go.”
There was some cat-and-mouse late in the third quarter, with North up five and West staying in a zone. The Cavs didn’t shoot for two minutes, but Connor found Chambers for a huge, momentum-building bucket at the end of the quarter.
When Chambers got another layup on a nice pass by Connor, North led by 11 with 5:50 left. It looked over, especially when West lost Jarvis Morgan to five fouls, but Sherrill lifted his team as close as 59-57 with a 3-pointer with 2:21 left.
But a free throw by Chambers and a big defensive board by Michael Bowman set the stage for Givens’ pivotal play.
“North’s strong — very deep, very big bodies and very good guards,” Sherrill said. “But we played them hard. This was a game that will make both of us better.”
NORTH ROWAN (69) — Givens 21, Connor 14, Chambers 12, Ford 9, Watlington 4, Bowman 4, Kimber 3, West 2.
WEST ROWAN (62) — Sherrill 30, Martin 7, Warren 6, Parks 6, Reddick 5, Tucker 4, J. Morgan 2, Gallagher 2, T. Morgan, Cuthbertson, Hassard.
N. Rowan 20 16 10 23 — 69
W. Rowan 16 17 6 23 — 62