SPENCER — Gray Stone’s athletic program ranks first in the YVC and 11th in the 1A Wells Fargo Cup state standings, so the Knights are doing fine in a wide range of sports.
But with 300 or so students, and with more than half of those students females, it’s never going to be easy for the Knights to thrive in boys basketball.
Gray Stone’s encounters with North Rowan have been challenging, and Wednesday’s 84-23 romp in Spencer was the latest installment.
For the record, North won its previous meetings with Gray Stone 82-31, 73-36, 86-30, 52-20, 91-37 and 75-19, with that 75-19 game last season breaking North’s all-time record for fewest points allowed.
North led 84-17 on Tuesday with 70 seconds left when quick guard Alex Wang’s 3-pointer lifted the Knights (0-9, 0-5 YVC) out of danger of setting another record.
“We’re going to bring it every night, no matter who we’re playing,” North senior T.J. Bates said fiercely. “We’re not going to take a day off.”
North’s veterans knew what was coming, so give them credit. They didn’t coast. They played like they were tangling with Salisbury or Albemarle.
“We know Gray Stone is down, but our main thing is we have to play hard if we want to get better,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “It’s very easy to get playground-ish in a game like this, but I thought we kept our focus and did a lot of good, fundamental things.”
Oshon West scored 20 high-percentage points for the Cavaliers. Freshman Jalen Sanders, who is going to be special, scored 13. Malik Ford and Michael Bowman had 10 each.
Wang had 12 for the Knights.
Needless to say, there were dunks — three of them.
West set up two with perfect lobs — one that Ford threw down and one that Bowman hammered through the cords.
Those were nice, but they got 9.5s from the judges, while Michael Connor received a “10” on every card when he took off from way, way out following a steal and finished with a thunderous dunk. See the picture of Connor. That one defied description.
North’s offense was fine, but the defense, intense with minimal fouls, was even better. A lot of times that defense created easy offense, which is the formula Mitchell wants.
“We pushed the ball, shared it, and kept everyone in the game,” Bates said.
Gray Stone had a 13-minute scoring drought in the second half, and the Knights never had a double-digit quarter.
“Everyone played hard on defense,” Sanders said. “The defense has to start with the guards. We were locking up our men and everything fell into place after that.”
It could’ve been worse. North’s first unit played roughly 18 minutes and the third team played the last four. But when you’re playing North (6-2, 4-0), talented people keep jumping off the bench. Josh Handy scored six points the first minute he was on the floor.
“It was important to use this game to progress and not regress,” Mitchell said. “There are tough games ahead of us in the Christmas tournament.”
North will be seeded No. 2.
GRAY STONE (23) — Wang 12, Mansfield 4, Lantz 3, Latimer 2, Jennings 2, Singetary, Huckabee.
NORTH ROWAN (84) — West 20, Sanders 13, Bowman 10, Ford 10, Handy 6, Connor 5, Walker 4, D. Nelson 4, B. Nelson 4, Archie 4, Bates 2, Tate 2, Bost, Ellis, Billingsley.
Gray Stone 9 6 2 6 — 23
North Rowan 20 27 23 14 — 84