Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 28, 2013
SPENCER — Jalen Sanders’ 60-footer at the horn was waved off, but North Rowan’s boys still stretched their string of wins by 25-plus points to 18 in a row.
The second-seeded Cavaliers shook off a frigid start, got 16 points from Oshon West and great defense from Michael Bowman and beat South Stokes 72-46 in a second-round 1A playoff game on Wednesday.
“They were a pretty good team, but we picked it up in the second half,” West said.
No major pep talks will be needed by North’s coaching staff on Friday. Monroe’s Redhawks will be in Spencer, and they ousted North from the playoffs with a stunning third-round upset a year ago.
“One of the things we talked about tonight with our guys was when you take that jersey off for the last time, let it be on your own terms,” North head coach Andrew Mitchell said.
To remove that jersey on your own terms, you have to win the state championship. North is a contender, although hardly the favorite. The favorite is Winston-Salem Prep.
“Prep is just so tough,” South Stokes coach Jason Clark said. “We tried to zone them and one of their kids hit eight 3s, and he wasn’t even their best player. Every team is beatable and North Rowan is really good, so they’d have a chance — but they’d have to shoot a lot better than they did tonight. I wish them luck, but they’ve got a tough road.”
North could not have shot the ball worse on Wednesday — at least for a half. South Stokes played 2-3 zone, North fired up long misses, and the Cavs led 12-10 after a quarter only because their pressure defense forced turnovers.
“We needed to penetrate and kick and shoot rhythm shots,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t do that. We were making one pass and shooting.”
North (26-3) finally enjoyed one of its patented spurts when it went on a 12-0 spree late in the second quarter to lead 25-14 at halftime.
Alexis Archie triggered that blistering run with a slick pass to West, and Michael Connor flew in to score off a steal to cap it. North held the seventh-seeded visitors without a field goal in the quarter.
“We executed our gameplan the first quarter and for half of the second,” Clark said. “It’s 13-12 when we miss a one-and-one for the lead, and then North did what they had to do — they attacked hard and shot a lot of layups.”
North shot 32 percent in the first half, with virtually all of the makes on stickbacks and layups. The Cavs were O-fer on 3s, but they forced 13 turnovers.
Bowman was a first-half stud with seven rebounds and four blocks.
“The shots just weren’t falling for us,” Bowman said. “So my mindset was to rebound and defend.”
North settled the outcome early the second half. West put up seven quick points to push the lead to 18, and he hit his second 3 at the end of the quarter for a 54-28 margin.
“We were nervous a little bit at the start,” West said. “We had to get with the flow.”
Unlike North’s YVC opponents, South Stokes (16-11) didn’t simply collapse once the Cavs started to click. The final verdict was as lopsided as it was only because third-team freshman Josh Handy breezed in for three layups.
“We knew North hadn’t had been in any close games, and we believed if we put them in one, anything could happen,” Clark said. “But that run they had in the second quarter gave them their confidence and momentum.”
El-J Scales led the Sauras with 16 points.
SOUTH STOKES (46) —Scales 16, Smith 10, Feimster 5, Edwards 4, Martin 4, Page 3, Joyce 2, Price 2,
NORTH ROWAN (72) — West 16, Bowman 12, Connor 8, Sanders 7, Bates 7, Ford 6, Handy 6, Ellis 4, Archie 4, D. Nelson 2, Billingsley, B. Nelson, Tate.
S. Stokes 10 4 14 18 — 46
N. Rowan 12 13 27 20 — 72