SPENCER — If North Rowan plays every game like it did against North Moore, it could punch its ticket to the state championship game right now.
Of course the Cavaliers don’t have that luxury, but they looked like world-beaters in Friday night’s 69-26 YVC victory.
“From the time they hit the locker room right up until pre-game, they had that look on their face that we’re looking for,” coach Andrew Mitchell said after North (3-2, 2-0) earned its third straight win. “I didn’t think it would be this bad, but I knew we were going to play well tonight.”
Actually, it could have been worse. North Moore (2-4, 1-1) offered little resistance against NR’s starting five, which was so locked in it could have run its fastbreak with its eyes closed.
“The whole key to the first quarter,” junior Michael Bowman said after contributing eight points and four steals in about 10 minutes of action, “was to get a big lead and let the bench take over. We want to be rested for (tonight’s) game.”
The Cavs will face off against rival Salisbury at Goodman Gymnasium tonight, so kindly excuse them for looking ahead. Mitchell hardly played his starters after North jumped to a 25-3 first-quarter lead and none of them — Oshon West, Michael Connor, Malik Ford, Jalen Sanders and Bowman — set foot on the court in the second half.
“They could have put up triple digits if they wanted to,” losing coach Grant Smith said. “I had scouted them twice and wasn’t surprised by any of it. They run hard, play physical, push the ball upcourt and they shut us down. They did it all, above the rim and on the floor.”
North powered up its gun-the-engine offense and raced to a 12-0 lead in the first three minutes. Ford was on the business end of a couple of alley-oop slams in the first period. Then reserve guard Shariff Walker came off the bench and quickly scored the first five of his game-best 13 points.
“It was a chance to get comfortable running the offense,” the sophomore said. “Coach always looks right at us before every game and asks, ‘Are we ready?’ Our answer is, ‘We stay ready.’”
The rout continued in the second quarter when North’s bench tallied 13 points and its defense held North Moore to a single field goal and one free throw. Consecutive layups by Kihrey Ellis helped the Cavs mount a 50-8 halftime edge.
“We came out and shared the ball,” Mitchell said. “And we ended up with 50 points in the first half. We weren’t necessarily coming out and trying to get that. We just wanted to play with high energy.”
North’s widest margin was 67-11, provided early in the fourth quarter after Walker rebounded his own missed free throw, made a quick move to the basket and hit a layup. Bowman, for one, came away impressed. “Shariff and Kihrey,” he said outside the quickly emptying North locker room. “They put up big-time minutes tonight.”
“Walker’s been running in the back of the pack,” Mitchell added. “We’ve challenged him to run first.”
By game’s end all 14 players in uniform had received significant playing time.“It looked like a good opportunity for everyone,” senior Brandon Nelson said after snaring seven rebounds. “It forces us to always be ready and keep our heads focused. And when the time comes, act to the occasion.”
NORTH MOORE (26) — Spivey 6, Aumon 5, Richardson 5, Herron 3, Purvis 3, Britt 2, Chisholm 2.
NORTH ROWAN (69) — Walker 13, West 9, Connor 8, Bowman 8, Ellis 8, Hardy 6, Ford 6, B.Nelson 5, D.Nelson 4, Sanders 2, Bates, Billingsly, Archie.
N. Moore 5 3 3 15 — 26
N. Rowan 25 25 13 6 — 69