ALBEMARLE — Sometimes one spare part is all it takes to ignite a team’s engine.
Freshman Tre Allen provided the spark North Rowan’s girls basketball team needed to prevail Wednesday in its YVC opener at Albemarle.
“The main reason she’s on the team is because she’s a great ball-defender,” first-year coach Brian Lytton said after the Cavs pocketed a 59-49 victory. “A great man-to-man defender. She’s not in the game to score for us, but by the same token, if someone’s got the open shot, by all means take it.”
Allen was that someone and the 3-pointer she drained with five minutes remaining proved pivotal. It broke a 43-43 tie and triggered a 12-0 run that helped North (1-1) give Lytton his first varsity win at the school.
“The key is if you want it, you’ve got to go get it,” said NR’s Special Washington, another freshman and the person who spotted Allen unguarded in the right corner and zipped an inbounds pass to her. “It wasn’t a called play. I just saw her and got the ball there.”
It was Allen’s only basket — and one she’ll remember. “I just knew what had to be done,” she indicated. “I focused on shooting the ball. Nobody was on me. I had a lot of courage.”
Albemarle coach Elbert Branch said the long-range bucket had a major effect on his team. “After that the girls started to duck their heads and complained about the officiating,” he said after the Bulldogs dropped their season-opener. “It seemed like we stopped running our offense.”
North’s stingy defense certainly played a role. The Cavs forced 33 turnovers, including 20 in the hotly contested first half.
“It was a big part of it,” Lytton said. “And Tre made some big plays.”
North found itself on the wrong side of an inside mismatch for much of the night. Albemarle’s 6-foot-1 junior Akela Branch — the coach’s niece — was a handful with and without the ball and paced all scorers with 24 points. On more than one occasion she snagged multiple offensive rebounds before sinking layups.
“She’s just good,” Washington exhaled about netting a team-best 13 points. “I mean, she’s tall, she got all those putbacks and made all of her layups. She’s got it all.”
North’s Demeria Robinson (12 points) gave the guests a 48-43 lead when converted a steal into a fastbreak layup. Washington added a three-point play and layup before Robinson’s set shot from the right base line gave North a commanding 55-43 lead with 2:42 to play.
“It was good to get one,” said Lytton, who coached NR’s jayvee boys team to a 19-1 record last winter. “It wasn’t perfect, but I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty any day.”
NORTH ROWAN (59) — Washington 13, Robinson 12, Sells 9, Farmer 8, Royer 7, Lingle 6, Allen 4, Smith.
ALBEMARLE(49) — Branch 24, Barrino 10, McLendon 7, Stanback 3, Currie 3, Bruton 2.
N. Rowan 14 13 11 21 — 59
Albemarle 11 14 11 13 — 49