SPENCER — While North Rowan’s boys rolled to their 14th straight victory on Tuesday, South Davidson’s collection of freshmen and sophomores can someday tell their grandchildren that they led the mighty Cavaliers 10-9 after five minutes.
“It was a good feeling to be ahead of the state’s third-ranked team,” South Davidson coach Matt Belk said. “I’ve got nothing but respect for how hard my team played. We never gave up.”
Sure, North ultimately won the YVC first-round tournament mismatch 79-38 behind the work of reserves Jalen Sanders, Alexis Archie and Kihrey Ellis, but the eighth-seeded Wildcats (2-21) can always treasure those first five minutes when their shots were falling and top-seeded North was struggling on both ends.
“We started out in a defense we hadn’t played, trying new things, and that allowed South Davidson’s young guys a chance to run their offense,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “That’s on me, not our players.”
North slaughtered South Davidson 116-44 in Denton in a regular-season finale on Friday that shattered county records.
So no one would’ve blamed South Davidson if it had called to forfeit Tuesday due to a broken-down bus or a flu epidemic.
But the Wildcats showed up in Spencer at the appointed time, and they briefly shocked the world.
“For a bunch of freshmen and sophomores to come here and compete very hard after the way they lost Friday, I really respect that,” Mitchell said. “They didn’t just roll over. They showed us they were basketball players.”
What makes North (22-3) such a powerful team is its depth, and even with 6-foot-7 Malik Ford sitting out for the sixth straight game with a stress fracture, the Cavaliers had plenty of firepower waiting on the pine.
“It was a slow start, and we were just kind of sitting there praying someone would make a shot,” North freshman Sanders said. “When we were called on, our biggest job was just to get the energy going.”
Mitchell turned to his second unit to spell the struggling starters with the Cavaliers trailing by one. Over the next three minutes, the talented Sanders and sophomore lefty Alexis Archie outscored the Wildcats 15-2.
“We did have a real slow start, but everyone has bad games,” Archie said. “It happens sometimes. We just wanted to pick up the slack until the starters could get back on the right foot.”
When reserve Shareef Walker made two free throws, North doubled South Davidson at 28-14 — and then the starters returned. They announced they were back when Dalton Nelson slammed a perfect lob by Oshon West.
Seven different Cavaliers scored in the second quarter, and by halftime, it was 47-18.
North’s starters played a grand total of 70 seconds in the second half, as Mitchell opened the period with a mixed bag of second-unit guys and third-teamers.
“They can keep going down their bench, and there’s no dropoff,” Belk said. “Their backups could start for anyone else in this league.”
Backup post men Ellis and Devon Tate combined for 20 points. North’s reserves scored 55.
“It got a little sloppy out there because we used a lot of of odd combinations,” Mitchell said. “I know people want us to just beat teams to death, but all our players work equally hard in practice and when we can rest starters and give everyone opportunities, we’ll do that.”
Well-rested North plays a tournament semifinal tonight at 7:30 p.m. at East Montgomery.
SOUTH DAVIDSON (38) —Shore 8, Gallimore 6, Glidewell 5, Dowdle 5, Hedrick 4, Collins 4, Stevenson 2, Needham 2, Riffe 2, Hazelwood, Crook, Cornelison.
NORTH ROWAN (79) — Sanders 14, Ellis 12, Archie 8, Tate 8, Bowman 8, Connor 8, Walker 5, West 4, Bates 4, D. Nelson 4, B. Nelson 2, Handy 2, Billingsley.
S. Davidson 12 6 4 16 — 38
N. Rowan 24 23 11 21 — 79
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