Throwback Basketball: North All-Stars 65, East Rowan 45: Suber leads late charge
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Ed Suber was an NAIA All-American 10 years ago, and he’s shot his way out of slumps before.
After a slow start, Suber exploded for a dozen points in a four-minute span early in the second half on Friday in the Carson gym. His spree enabled North Rowan to pull away for a 65-45 win against East Rowan in the first round of Scooter Sherrill’s Alumni Throwback Tournament.
“It seemed like Suber started out 0-for-11,” said North’s 6-foot-6 Bryan McCullough. “But he still couldn’t hesitate. He still had to play his game.”
Play got rough and physical toward the end of a first half that ended with North clinging to a 24-21 lead. Maybe that’s what got Suber going.
“It’s good to get Suber mad once in a while,” chuckled North coach Andrew Mitchell.
Suber finished with 20 points, McCullough had 15, and Sam Starks tossed in nine — all in the second half.
Brian Honeycutt, a senior when East went 24-6 in 2005, had 16 for the Mustangs, scoring inside and out.
With three of the better ballhandlers and passers in school history — Spenser Davis, Eric Taylor and Justin Vanderford — all on the floor at the same time, East controlled the pace for a half and made enough drive-and-kick 3-pointers to stay in it.
North shot poorly in the first half — 26 percent on field goals and 2-for-8 on free throws — and that also helped the Mustangs hang around.
“We missed 20 points worth of layups in the first half,” said McCullough, the 2001 Rowan County Player of the Year. “But in the second half, we made the layups and we also played a lot better defense.”
McCullough, a 1,000-point scorer at UNC Asheville and a veteran of many years of pro hoops in Europe and Canada, was the biggest difference-maker. Besides his points, he had eight rebounds, five steals and three assists.
“Bryan does a whole lot of good things,” Mitchell said. “It doesn’t seem like he’s scoring much at all, but then you look up and he’s got a lot of points.”
Davis had five assists for East, although he could’ve been in double figures in that department if his teammates had converted more layups and open 3-pointers. East shot 34.6 percent for the game.
“I never could shoot,” joked Davis, one of the heroes of the East team that played in the 2005 Western Regional. “But I could always pick up a ball and pass.”
When Davis set up Honeycutt to start the second half, East inched within 24-23.
“When you haven’t played with guys in a long time, it’s hard to figure out exactly where you want the ball to go,” Davis said. “But Brian was shooting really well, and we started trying to get it to him more.”
When Honeycutt scored inside with 16:34 left to play, East trailed 31-27, but then Suber’s sudden spree changed the game.
They were a lot more athletic,” Davis said. “And we just ran out of gas.”
North got exciting transition play in the second half from Starks, a 2011 graduate who is headed to Voorhees.
“It was real slow at first, but then we all started to bond,” Starks said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have been around and really know what they’re doing.”
North’s senior citizen is gray-bearded and gray-haired Jimmy Kesler, a star of the school’s march to a state title in 1986.
Kesler, 44, arrived in the gym with the action already under way and wasn’t a factor in the first half. It was a different story after he got loose. He was the game’s leading rebounder in the second half, provided a soaring block in the paint and even missed a respectable dunk attempt.
“Jimmy was worried that he couldn’t help us because he’s been working a lot and hasn’t been able to play,” Mitchell said. “But that dunk, even though he missed it, showed he’s got his confidence back. He knows he can still get up there.”
North is hungry after failing to make the championship game the last two years. If this is the Cavs’ time, Kesler will be a big reason.
“People talk about aging, but I’m still in shape to play basketball,” he said. “I just have to get my timing back.”