Getting ready for the Western Regionals…
GREENSBORO — No one has forgotten two years ago when North Rowan and Winston-Salem Prep squared off in the Western Regional 1A final.
It was an Instant Classic, with the Cavaliers pulling out a heartstopping 92-85, double-overtime victory.
North went on to win the state championship. Last season, North was upset by Monroe in the sectional final and Prep won the title.
Now, here they are again.
And neither North coach Andrew Mitchell nor Prep coach Andre Gould has forgotten 2010.
“Both teams remember that game,” Mitchell said. “Each team has players still around.”
The Cavaliers put six players in double figures and two of them — T.J. Bates and Malik Ford — were among them.
For Bates, it was a 22-point night, which is still his career high.
“There was a reason it was so great and why we expect another one,” Gould said. “You’re dealing with two coaches who feel they’re the best and dealing with two teams with players who feel like they’re the best.
“Not only that, but two programs that play similar — fast and hard and play with a bit of an attitude. We’re both tough teams. like the Raiders and Pittsburgh, Carolina and Duke.”
It should be a good one, folks. Maybe you can call it the state championship game, a week early.
“We knew somewhere along the line we would meet,” Gould said.
MAGIC & BIRD: Gould said he and Mitchell are good friends.
“I compare it to Magic and Bird,” Gould smiled. “They used to look in the paper to see how many each other scored. I keep up with him and he keeps up with me.”
PLAY OF THE YEAR? It took a last-second layup by Michael Connor to beat Monroe 53-51 in the sectional final and keep a sour look off Mitchell’s face for a second straight year.
But he wanted to talk more about Oshon West’s length of the court pass to Connor.
Monroe drove to the basket for what it thought would be the winning points but a missed attempt ended up in West’s hands.
“It was a great play by Oshon,” Mitchell said. “He actually made a left-handed pass and hit Mike dead in stride. (Connor) didn’t even have to dribble.”
DEJA VU: Mitchell said he looked across the floor at the pained expression worn by Monroe coach Johnny Sowell.
“They beat us the same way last year so they went home feeling like we did,” he said. “I had the same look he had.”
Mitchell grinned when talking about the overflow North crowd that stormed the court after Connor hit his layup, although there was no signal for a few seconds. After an emotional comeback from 17 points down, Mitchell was thinking only that his team had advanced.
“When I saw the fans rush the floor, I wasn’t about to turn around and go back to the bench, whether it was good or not,” he said.
FAN-TASTIC: Expect that same turnout of Cavalier fans Friday when the two teams meet at 8:30 p.m. at UNC Greensboro’s Fleming Gym.
“We’ve been getting good crowds all year long,” Mitchell said. “Friday night, I believe that was the sixth man that pulled us through.”
ALL-COUNTY PREVIEW: One of the easiest choices this year was West as the boys county player of the year.
The team will be announced after North has finished its season, whether in Greensboro or next week in the state-title game.
IMPRESSED WITH CAVS: Cuthbertson coach Mike Helms is already in the 2A regional final after whipping Trinity, but he remembers North when they were both in the season-opening Charlotte Invitational.
Cothbertson beat North 71-56 on its way to a 28-3 record so far.
“They were very, very talented,” Helms said of North Rowan. “They went to that tournament the same reason we did — to get pushed and play some good teams. I’ve kinda followed them. I’m not surprised they’re here.”
WHAT ABOUT US? Winston-Salem Prep and North Rowan have been such 1A jugernauts this season, it is easy to forget about the other matchup: Hendersonville (24-3) vs. East Surry (18-11).
Hendersonville coach Marvin Featherstone said the third time’s the charm. He has lost the last two years in the sectional final. The Bearcats were 13-1 in the Western Highlands Conference.
“We’re a pretty good defensive team,” he said. “We press a lot and wanna run.”
East Surry coach Jason Anderson knows Prep well. They are both in the Northwest Conference.
“Five of our losses were to Winston-Salem Prep and West Stokes,” Anderson said. “Those aren’t bad losses.”
Anderson remembers the second matchup with Prep.
“I told our guys, ‘They can’t possibly shoot it as well as they did the first time.’ I was wrong. They shot 83 percent from behind the (3-point) line in the first half. They hit eight.”
Anderson was asked for a quick scouting report on Prep for North.
“They have different weapons all over the court,” he said. “You can’t focus on one. Those guys can light it up.”
There you go.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or email@example.com.