Prep Basketball Sectionals: Monroe boys 54, North Rowan 51

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 24, 2012

By Mike London
SPENCER — Down three points and with 6.3 seconds left, everyone in the North Rowan gym knew Oshon West would get a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer.
West caught the ball, stayed composed with an overflow crowd barking and Monroe defenders swarming and dribbled toward the right corner to launch his shot.
It looked good all the way — it just didn’t go in — and second-seeded North fell 54-51 to No. 3 seed Monroe in a 1A sectional final on Friday.
“We kind of let the wrong kid get the ball because he was making shots,” Monroe coach Johnny Sowell said. “But it was our night — a really exciting night.”
North won 44-40 at Monroe in 2011, a stepping stone on the way to a 1A state championship, but that team had seniors Sam Starks and Javon Hargrave and a healthy Jordan Kimber and T.J. Bates.
“This is a heartbreaking loss because our kids worked so hard this year,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “But if you stay around this game long enough you’ll be in heartbreaking situations.”
Pierre Givens scored 13 points for the Cavaliers (25-4), while West got all of his 12 points after halftime.
Brandon Roddy scored 20 for the Redhawks (19-10).
North’s loss was triggered by a horrific first quarter that forced it to claw uphill most of the night and deadly, 19-for-23 free-throw shooting by the Redhawks.
“They were on the foul line more than they were playing against our defense,” Mitchell said. “They made more free throws than we shot.”
North shot 2-for-10 from the field in the first quarter to fall behind 12-6.
Givens made three buckets in the second quarter, and even with West and 6-foot-7 Malik Ford combining for just two first-half points, the Cavs made it to the locker room trailing 26-21. But while North felt fortunate to be close at the break, Monroe knew it also hadn’t played its best.
“We shot 33 percent (8-for-24) the first half, and we had all kinds of open looks,” Sowell said. “I knew if we kept getting the same shots, we’d start making them.”
He was right, and when Roddy drilled two quick 3s to open the second half, North (25-4) was down nine and in trouble.
But then West made a heavily contested 3 from deep on the left side, and North’s energy picked up. North began surging, as West buried another 3-ball. Then he atoned for an airball with a steal and a layup.
When Tydler Watlington scored uncontested inside with 5:03 left, North had completed its long, uphill climb and led 42-41.
Leading 45-44 with three minutes left, North went into keepaway mode, and two free throws each by Givens and West put the Cavs ahead 49-44 and seemingly on their way back to the Western Regional to defend their state title.
But Sowell, resplendent in a red vest, got his very young team calmed down.
“One timeout, I didn’t speak at all,” Sowell said. “I just gave them the stare. They know what the stare means. It means they’re not doing things the right way.”
Monroe did things the right way from that point forward. North had back-to-back shaky possessions, and suddenly Tre’shun Wynn’s confident 3-ball made it 49-all.
“Tre’shun is the one that kept telling us that it wasn’t over,” Roddy said.
Ford’s two free throws with 32 seconds left put North in front 51-49, but when Roddy swished an icewater 3 from the wing nine seconds later, the Cavs were down.
A miss by Givens led to two clutch free throws by Monroe’s Dikembe White, and the Cavs were reeling. When West missed his shot at the end, they were done.
“The ball just didn’t bounce our way, and I can’t even explain how bad it feels to lose like this,” North sophomore Michael Bowman said. “All I can do is thank our seniors for a terrific season.”
MONROE (54) — Roddy 20, Wynn 14, Chambers 12, White 3, Parker 3, Finklea 2, Sledge, Barbour.
NORTH ROWAN (51) — Givens 13, West 12, Bowman 9, Watlington 5, Connor 4, Ford 4, Chambers 4, Barber.
Monroe 12 14 13 15 — 54
N. Rowan 6 15 14 16 — 51