North-Davie final appears likely

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 27, 2012

SALISBURY — We’re dealing with distraction-prone, unpredictable teenagers here, so there are no sure things.
Still, there’s a 95 percent chance that this year’s Sam Moir Christmas Classic will be decided by a North Rowan-Davie County boys championship game on Saturday night. They’re the only two teams in the field with winning records.
On paper, North-Davie is a matchup that has to happen, although five up-and-down teams will be trying very hard to play a perfect game to spoil the party.
The top-seeded War Eagles (9-1) aren’t flawless, although their one loss came on the home court of unbeaten Olympic, the nation’s 14th-ranked team, by one point. Olympic had an incredible shooting night and Davie had foul trouble, and it still came down to the last possession. That’s how good coach Mike Absher’s team is.
Davie has four of the top seven back from a team that went 23-7 and reached the Western Regional final last season. That quartet includes the athletic, high-scoring, 6-foot-6 Martin twins, Cody and Caleb. They are juniors already committed to N.C. State.
To the Martins, springy Kenyon Tatum and shooter Peyton Sell, Davie has added another set of junior twins, the Hatfields.
The 6-foot Hatfields, sharpshooters and sound ballhandlers, already have topped 1,000 points in their careers. They played for YVC member South Davidson for two seasons before becoming War Eagles, so North Rowan is very familiar with them.
North beat Davie 60-59 in the Moir final last season, a fierce struggle that included an injury to Caleb Martin that forced him to miss a good chunk of the season.
4A Davie is the favorite, just as it was last season when it entered this event 9-1 and top-seeded. If the War Eagles do win it this time, they’ll be the first No. 1 seed to take the boys tournament since East claimed the crown in 2006.
North (6-2) has won six straight (with the closest margin being 15 points) since opening the season with tournament losses to Peachtree Ridge, ranked 11th in Georgia, and Waxhaw Cuthbertson, which is 9-0.
North is 1A by classification but its talent level isn’t 1A-ish. Oshon West is a special scorer, while Michael Connor is a tremendous athlete. The Cavaliers have size, defense, experience, cohesion and depth, and coach Andrew Mitchell could lead them to a state title. They’ll have to shoot well from outside to beat Davie, but the Cavaliers are capable.
As the top seed, Davie has a bye Thursday, so it only has to win one game to make the final. The opposition for Davie in a Friday semifinal will be provided by either fifth-seeded East (4-6) or fourth-seeded Carson (5-5), which lost a coin flip with South for third.
Carson has won four of its last five after a shaky start. The Cougars are led by point guard Tre Williams and 6-foot-6 Colton Laws, both juniors, and they beat East at home by 13.
East also got off to a slow start, but it has won three of its last four. Donte Means is the top scorer for the Mustangs.
Seventh-seeded West Rowan (2-8) furnishes the opening-day opposition for North. The Cavaliers won 67-47 when the teams met early in the season. West has added scorer Devin Parks since then and has improved quite a bit — but so has North.
The other first-round game matches two teams that are trending downward. Third-seeded South (5-5) and sixth-seeded Salisbury (3-5) both dropped their last two contests before Christmas.
There’s always hope, though. North came into last year’s tournament with question marks and a two-game losing streak but emerged as a champion.