Prep Basketball Sectionals: North Rowan boys 55, Lake Norman Charter 45

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 22, 2012

By Mike London
SPENCER — Oshon West apologized to his teammates at halftime.
West had maybe the worst first half of his life — 2-for-10, mostly from pointblank range — as North Rowan struggled against Lake Norman Charter, but it was West that led a charge that carried the Cavaliers to a 55-45 victory.
“I missed a lot of shots early because I was just too hyped,” West explained. “Too amped.”
West finished with 17 points. Malik Ford had 13 points, 13 boards — and one technical foul — because he also was too hyped.
“I apologized for it — I was just playing the game and got excited,” Ford said. “The ref said I got in a guy’s face.”
A No. 2 seed in the 1A state playoffs, North (25-3) needed excitement to survive a second-round matchup with an unheralded bunch of Knights (13-13). Lake Norman Charter arrived in Spencer with a No. 10 seed, no one taller than 6-foot-2 and no one averaging in double figures. The Knights’ gameplan had three parts — patience, patience and more patience.
“They were as advertised,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “What we’d heard was that they could shoot, that they would play hard man-to-man and they would run their offense.”
What North didn’t expect was that West would miss so many easy opportunities and that LNC would toss in so many defended shots. North stayed close early only because it was pounding away at the offensive glass.
The Knights finished the first period with a stunning 17-13 lead over the defending state champs.
“I underestimated them,” Ford admitted. “I watched them in warmups and wasn’t impressed, but everyone they put on the floor could play. Our defense had to pick up.”
Only Ford’s huge second quarter — eight points and six boards — allowed North to be even at halftime.
“The first half we dictated the pace,,” LNC coach Aaron Reeves said. “We wanted to frustrate them, get them mad that the game wasn’t up and down.”
But a 3-ball by West opened the second half and a 15-footer by Ford and a 3-pointer by Pierre Givens followed. Suddenly, the Cavs surged ahead 46-35.
“They came out for the second half hungry,” Reeves said. “Their size hurt us, and they not only have size, they can jump.”
The crowd was roaring and the Cavs were flying, but the Knights weren’t done. When Davis Elkins opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, the lead was cut to eight.
The Knights’ next possession was pivotal. LNC ran its offense and ran it and ran it, but the marathon possession ended with a Givens steal and a fastbreak layup by West.
With North leading by six with 2:24 on the clock, Givens pulled up for a jumper, as Mitchell stomped his foot. Naturally, it swished.
“That’s Pierre,” Mitchell said with a laugh. “But you can live with a crazy shot because you know he’s giving you everything he’s got.”
The backbreaker for LNC was a possession of two-plus minutes that ended with another North stop.
“They ran their offense, and earlier in the year we would’ve gambled and given up either a layup or an open 3,” Mitchell said. “Tonight, we communicated, we never broke down, and they didn’t score. That’s a good sign of a mature team.”
North Rowan was missing big guy Tydler Watlington, who had a death in his family, but it moved on to a Friday home game against Monroe.
LAKE NORMAN CHARTER (45) — Cunningham 10, Elkins 9, Goins 7, Dorsainvil 6, Williams 5, Scearce 4, Tabor 2, Smith.
NORTH ROWAN (55) — West 17, Ford 13, Givens 12, Connor 8, Bowman 5, Barber, Chambers.
LN Charter 17 10 8 10 — 45
N. Rowan 13 14 19 9 — 55