NPC Tournament: North Iredell ends season for South Rowan boys
OLIN — At one time, South Rowan was 11-9 and thinking playoffs.
Then, a 52-50 loss to North Iredell began a tailspin and the Raiders lost six straight to end the season.
That same North Iredell team sent Bryan Withers’ club home for good Tuesday 62-47.
Meanwhile, North Iredell doesn’t have to look over its shoulder anymore.
Fifth-seeded South, the only remaining team in the North Piedmont Conference tournament that could’ve knocked the Raiders out of their coveted state playoff spot, was eliminated.
The NPC gets four berths in the 3A playoffs, and only the top four seeds in the tournament remain. South Rowan needed to run the table to advance to the postseason.
“We didn’t play like we wanted to win the game,” said Withers. “We didn’t believe we could win the tournament. And that’s a mindset.”
Qwan Rhyne led South with 15 points but it could have been more, according to Withers.
“We probably missed 20 shots within five feet,” he said. “It’s just not concentrating. It’s not finishing.”
North Iredell reserve Jonathan Ely wasn’t missing much, going 6-for-7 from the field and scoring 15 points. He helped Brian Cantrell’s club race out to a 31-18 lead early in the third quarter.
That’s when South used its defense to get back in the game. A full-court press, led by Christian Holbrook and Rhyne, forced some quick turnovers in the third quarter and eventually forced a 44-all tie in the fourth.
But North scored 18 of the game’s final 21 points.
“This was the last team that could’ve prevented us from our goal,” said Cantrell, whose Raiders are playoff-bound for the first time since 2007. “We wanted to make one last point that they didn’t deserve to go and we did.”
Nick Ruppe contributed nine points off the bench, Marquel Mullins supplied eight points and nine rebounds, and Nick Nolen and Austin Hartness chimed in with seven points apiece as North Iredell (10-13) won for the fourth time in six games.
Eric Goldston’s 3-pointer capped the 14-3 spurt that brought South Rowan within 34-32, and there were still 2 minutes, 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
North Iredell struggled with South’s full-court pressure.
“I felt like we had control for most of the game,” Cantrell said. “We let them back in it, but we kept our composure when we really needed to.”
Josh Medlin’s putback tied the game at 44 with 5:25 remaining in the fourth. North Iredell responded by going on its run.
“We have to learn how to play through adversity,” Withers said. “When things go bad, our heads go down.”
T’vadis Wesley grabbed 11 rebounds and scored six points, as did Holbrook.
“We were down to nine players and I played them all, rotating them in and out,” Withers said.
Withers called the season a roller-coaster ride. Dalton Carter, who was playing well inside, suffered a hit on the head and didn’t play again. Wesley had a season-high 14 against West Iredell, but didn’t hit double figures in the six-game losing streak.
The big blow, however, was when leading scorer Shawn Spry was ruled ineligible. He had 19 double-figure games.
“You don’t know how much of a leader Shawn was until he was gone,” Withers said, “and how much they depended on him.”
Withers loses only two seniors in Medlin and Eric Tyler.
“We thought we’d take our lumps and get better next year,” Withers said.
But he knows how close South was to making it past the tournament. In the late, 6-game losing streak, the Raiders lost by 2, 2, 1 and 4.
“And that cost us going to the playoffs,” he sighed.
North Iredell advances to play in a 7:30 p.m. semifinal game tonight against Statesville (18-3).
“Statesville is a great ballclub,” Cantrell said. “They’re the champs for a reason. It’s going to be a challenge. I hope the guys are up for it and they’re not satisfied.”
SOUTH ROWAN (47) —Rhyne 15, Medlin 10, Holbrook 6, Wesley 6, Goldston 5, Tyler 3, Hill 2, Miller, Corriher.
NORTH IREDELL (62) — Ely 15, Ruppe 9, Mullins 8, Nolen 7, Hartness 7, CHambers 6, Grinton 4, Horton 3, Pruitt 2, Summers 1.
S. Rowan 6 12 18 11 — 47
N. Iredell 13 16 15 18 — 62
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