SPENCER — Just a blink of the eye.
That’s how long North Rowan led their Midwest Regional battle against Monroe’s Redhawks Friday night. But that was enough.
Oshon West grabbed a rebound and fed a wide open Michael Connor with 2.2 seconds left and the score tied at 51-51. The ball left Connor’s fingertips just as the red light on the backboard flashed. The layup banked in and North had its first and only lead of the night and the 53-51 win.
Connor said he made sure he got off a good shot but also had the presence of mind to give credit where credit was due: to Oshon West and to God.
“Without Oshon kicking the ball ahead to me that last shot wouldn’t have been possible, “ the 6-2 junior forward noted. “I just have to thank God. I have to thank the Man above for that shot.”
Winning coach Andrew Mitchell, normally impeccably dressed, looked a bit dissheveled outside the locker room in the jubilant aftermath. But he also felt the last second victory and remarkable second half comeback was special. “I call that a blessing just a blessing and we are moving on.”
Mitchell also gave credit to the deafening roar of a capacity crowd in the North gym for inspiring his team.
“I know that is what pulled us through, “ Mitchell said. “They were loud and rowdy and the sixth-man effect made the difference.”
In a larger sense, the win by the Cavaliers in the third round of the 1A Midwest playoffs was truly a signature win. They now stand 27-3 and are headed to the West regional semifinals next Friday night at UNC-Greensboro. They defeated a high-caliber Redhawk team (23-5) that made the Cavaliers look really bad in the first half.
In the convoluted world of 1A basketball, there are very few elite teams like North Rowan , Monroe, Winston Salem Prep and Plymouth. There are a lot of weak teams and North played many in the YVC. Most game were over by halftime.
So this deep in the play-offs with a dramatic rally against a truly quality team was a test that North Rowan passed with flying colors.
“It definitely was a statement game,” said 6-7 senior center Mailk Ford. “ People underestimate us because we don’t play in a strong conference but we came out here and played a good team that plays just as hard or harder than us and we were able to finish. We played just the way basketball is supposed to be played.”
Senior Oshon West, who scored 19 and got the big rebound, feels the team found the toughness to succeed.
“We always practice real hard and learn to play through the bad times.” he said. “So this was a big game right here for us and we’re ready now…just three more.”
Based on the way the game started for the host Cavaliers it took a lot of character and maturity to overcome a team that was quicker, more focused and more prepared to play. As a result, they trailed by as many as 16 points and were completely out of sync.
So what enabled North to turn it around? “We just toughened up,” Mitchell said. “We were getting beat up and instead of playing tough we were just whining and crying. In the locker room I just told the team to just toughen up or go home.”
Although it took every last micro-second for North to battle back, they took the lead when it counted.
At the buzzer.
“That’s how we planned it” said a grinning Mitchell.
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