LANDIS — The theme for South Rowan’s student section was “Super Hero Night,” and before it was over, Batman, Superman, Catwoman and the Amazing Spider-Man would be joined by South sophomore Qwan Rhyne.
Rhyne, who played unmasked and with a No. 23 jersey that did not include a cape, scored 26 points in South’s 72-68 win against neighbor and rival A.L. Brown.
Rhyne’s superpower apparently is being impervious to pressure. He made nine clutch free throws in the fourth quarter.
“He’s getting better every game,” said South’s Bryan Withers, who logged the biggest win of his young head-coaching career. He’s getting better because he listens and tries to do what you tell him.”
South broke a four-game losing streak against the Wonders and is off to its best start since the 2008-09 season when it also was 4-3 after seven games.
‘We’re just overjoyed right now,” South’s Tvadis Wesley said. “It’s hard to even explain the feeling, but we’ve come a long way in the last two weeks.”
Brown (3-3) beat South by 28 points in November in Bullock Gym, and that game was even less competitive than it sounds. That was a long night of South turnovers and Wonder dunks.
“We saw that ‘K’ on the chest,” Withers said. “And we wilted.”
But a lot has changed since then.
Brown point guard Derrick Copeland, sidelined by an ankle injury, carried a clipboard on Friday. High-flying Tevin Stark didn’t dress, and coach Shelwyn Klutz explained Stark has concussion-related issues after he took an elbow under the eye early in Tuesday’s game with Mallard Creek.
Power forward Keeon Johnson, who has muscles on top of his muscles, obviously was missing because he’ll be in action as a receiver in today’s Shrine Bowl.
Withers acknowledged the Wonders were shorthanded, but his sympathy was understandably limited. South has played all season without two potential post starters, including veteran Nathan Lambert.
Shawn Spry helped out Rhyne with 16 points, and Josh Medlin had 13. Tvadis Wesley contributed significantly as a shot-blocker and rebounder. Freshman Christian Holbrook got the Raiders (4-3) off to a fast start with six early points.
The Wonders were led by Tydus Parks’ 19 points. Joekeem Neal scored 14, and Michael Carr had 13.
South developed confidence early when Wesley and Medlin showed they could compete with the Wonders on the glass.
Brown led 16-13 after a quarter, but when the Wonders struggled offensively in the second quarter, Rhyne and Spry scored six points each and pushed the Raiders to a 33-29 halftime lead.
“With the personnel they had tonight, our zone matched up better,” Withers said. “And we’ve gotten better.”
It was 38-38 early in the third quarter after Neal, a sophomore, buried two straight 3s for the Wonders, but South, which had Wesley on the bench with four fouls, closed the quarter with a wicked 14-2 run as the entire Justice League of America went crazy in the student section.
Spry was the key guy. He nailed two 3s.
South’s lead peaked at 60-46 with five minutes left when Wesley returned to bury a jumper, but Braxton Waddell suddenly got hot and led a surge by the Wonders, who were forcing a flurry of turnovers.
Wesley fouled out, and South’s lead was sliced to 62-58 by a Waddell floater with 2:41 left. Brown pushed as close as 63-60 on two free throws by Parks, but Rhyne hit two free throws to quiet things down. Then Rhyne made a steal and layup with 1:19 left, and South was headed to victory.
“We just had to box out, calm down and play smarter,” Spry said. “And we made our free throws for a big win.”
Between them, South’s Rhyne, Medlin and Spry made 14 fourth-quarter free throws.
“The difference tonight was we competed,” Withers said. “This was a good measuring stick to see how far we’ve come as a basketball team.”
A.L. BROWN (68) — Parks 18, Neal 14, Carr 13, Waddell 9, Shepherd 8, Watson 4, Parker 2, Delahoussaey, Williamson, Addison,
SOUTH ROWAN (72) — Rhyne 26, Spry 16, Medlin 13, Wesley 8, Holbrook 6, Goldston 3, Corriher, Tyler, Miller, Carter, Ouellette.
A.L. Brown 16 13 11 28 — 68
S. Rowan 13 20 19 20 — 72