Salisbury, North in sectional finals today

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 23, 2012

By Mike London
SALISBURY — Two rounds into the state basketball playoffs, North Rowan’s boys and Salisbury’s girls are the only county teams still standing.
Both are defending state champs.
Both are ranked fourth in the latest media poll, which means there’s a mixture of believers and doubters out there.
Both teams are one win away from next week’s Western Regional in Greensboro and both face tough rematches tonight in 7 p.m. sectional finals.
The North boys enjoy the luxury of playing at home against Monroe. Salisbury’s girls must travel to Mount Airy to play North Surry.
It’s not like Salisbury’s third-seeded girls can’t win tonight — they’re not 25-3 by accident — but there are reasons why second-seeded North Surry (27-2) is favored.
For one thing, it’s a long ride for the Hornets, who eked out a 47-43 decision at North Surry in 2011 when SHS was blessed with a lineup of all-star seniors.
For another thing, North Surry is 14-0 on its home floor this season.
It also should be noted that North Surry buried West Stokes three times, and Salisbury struggled past West Stokes in Wednesday’s second round.
Finally, North Surry owns a win against 4A Hopewell, one of the teams that beat Salisbury.
Junior forward Kristina Rumplasch (17 pgg), point guard Morgan Midkiff and center Malaya Johnson average double figures for Shane Slate’s Greyhounds.
Rumplasch scored 41 — seriously, 41 — when North Surry, ranked seventh in the media poll, outscored Forest Hills on Wednesday.
Sophomore Brielle Blaire (22.2 ppg) and senior Doreen Richardson (13.3) lead Chris McNeil’s Hornets.
Win or lose, the Hornets have enjoyed the greatest sustained run of postseason success in county hoops history — nine straight regional appearances (under four different coaches) and three straight 2A state championships.
North Rowan vs. Monroe is quite a matchup. The Cavaliers survived 44-40 in Monroe in this round last season.
Monroe was crowned 1A state champion in 2010, so the Cavaliers dethroned them. Monroe would like to return the favor tonight.
North floorleader Pierre Givens, big man Malik Ford and super-quick Michael Connor played key roles in last year’s win at Monroe.
Coach Andrew Mitchell also will rely on sophomore Michael Bowman and junior Oshon West, a potential scoring machine.
North has had to play without junior defensive whiz T.J. Bates all season and without senior guard Jordan Kimber in recent weeks, but it has still put up a 25-3 record.
Second-seeded North is just the fourth boys team in school history to reach the 25-win plateau and the 19th in county history,
Monroe coach Johnny Sowell is a former Appalachian State fullback and is a hard-working guy who coaches the Redhawks year-round in football, basketball and track.
A great athlete at Monroe in the 1970s, Sowell piloted his third-seeded team (18-10) to a 55-52 win against East Surry on Wednesday.
As a No. 5 seed, Davie (21-6) didn’t really expect to have a home game in a sectional final, but the War Eagle boys are in Mocksville tonight for a 4A playoff matchup against No. 9 seed Richmond County.
Davie has an extremely potent offensive machine now that Caleb Martin has returned from injury, although coach Mike Absher is certain the long, rangy Martin boosts the team’s defense and rebounding even more than the offense.
Points are rarely a problem for Davie. Shannon Dillard poured in 39 in Wednesday’s rout of Northwest Guilford, and Nate Jones is capable of getting 39 any time he steps on the floor.