SPENCER — Second place was at stake when North Rowan’s girls hosted West Montgomery on Friday.
A likely silver medal in the YVC went to the visitors, while North was left to search for silver linings in a frantically paced 71-59 defeat.
North got 16 points from Demeria Robinson and 15 from Aliyah Farmer and had a shot at winning even with leading scorer Special Washington’s night wrecked by foul trouble — three early ones and disqualification for foul No. 5 with five minutes left.
“Foul trouble hurt us, and not just Special’s foul trouble, but early foul trouble with Farmer and (Amber) Carter as well,” North coach Brian Lytton said.
The free-throw line decided the game, and that’s not a negative commentary on the officiating. West Montgomery just did a whole lot better job of converting when it was awarded those uncontested 15-footers than North did.
“We missed 16 or 17 free throws, so many that I’m having a hard time counting them, and I’m a math teacher,” said Lytton, as he scrutinzed the scorebook.
On the other hand, West Montgomery’s outstanding sophomore point guard Danasia Dumas accounted for 14 of her 29 points at the foul line.
The pivotal juncture of the game came in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
North was down 50-48 when the quarter began. Six straight Dumas free throws later, and the Cavaliers (6-6, 6-2) were trailing by eight and climbing uphill.
In addition to Dumas, West Montgomery’s rugged, athletic senior post player Latoya Cuthrell presented problems for North. The Cavaliers didn’t have a matchup for her, and any time the Warriors (6-3, 6-1) really needed a rebound, she went and got it. She had 17 points and 15 boards.
“No. 10 (Cuthrell) is the one that really hurt us the most,” Robinson said.
WM coach Henry Panzer had the Cavaliers’ scorers well-scouted, and his team prevailed in a serious struggle.
“It was two good teams fighting for second place,” he said. “North is very quick and athletic. We did the best we could to deal with that, and it became a very physical game. I thought we had an advantage inside, and that’s what eventually paid off for us.”
North’s speed forced 25 turnovers, 17 in the first half, but it wasn’t enough.
“It’s one thing to force turnovers,” Lytton said. “But we’ve still got to convert layups off those turnovers, and we didn’t do that.”
West Montgomery led just about all the way, but Farmer, Robinson, Carter and Taylor Sells scored often enough to keep North within striking distance. Farmer produced a career high, with most of her points coming on attack-the-rim transition layups.
The Warriors’ lead finally pushed into double digits late in the game after Cuthrell took over the glass completely.
“I thought we played a good game and we kept up the fast pace that we wanted,” Robinson said. “The things that hurt us were the foul trouble and all those free throws that we missed.”
WEST MONTGOMERY (71) — Dumas 29, Cuthrell 17, Waddell 7, Lindsey 7, Morris 7, Diggs 4, Covington, Steele.
NORTH ROWAN (59) —Robinson 16, Farmer 15, Sells 10, Carter 8, Royer 4, Washington 3, Lingle 3.
W. Montgomery 21 15 14 21 — 71
N. Rowan 15 14 19 11 — 59