KANNAPOLIS — It is three games into the season and South Rowan’s boys are struggling to emit a clear picture of themselves.
That may seem odd considering the Raiders are off to a 2-1 start. But it’s not as unusual as the statement coach Bryan Withers made Tuesday after SR — playing without starting guard Shawn Spry — dropped a 63-49 decision in its SPC opener at Northwest Cabarrus.
“I’m not even upset about it,” Withers said after South ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. “You hate to lose, but we went into the game thinking we could still win without Shawn. That was a good thing.”
While Spry was home with a stomach virus, South played extremely well in stretches, particularly in the third quarter when it trimmed a 14-point first-half deficit to three. But at other times it looked lost, turning the ball over with reckless abandon.
“They were more physical than us tonight,” senior T’Vadis Graham-Wesley said. “I’ll admit that. We have to play a little harder.”
Northwest (2-1, 1-0 SPC) placed three scorers in double figures, topped by the muscular Anthony Caldwell’s game-high 19 points. The 6-foot-3 sophomore was a wrecking ball in shorts in the second half, when he netted 15 points.
“We’ve got offensive threats all over the floor,” said winning coach Eric Jackson. “That’s the best thing about this team. These guys are good and they came out hungry, ready to go.”
South barely had time to wipe its feet on the SPC welcome mat when the Trojans jumped to a 13-3 first-quarter lead. “We weren’t focused,” said junior Quantarius Rhyne, South’s leading scorer with 12 points. “We came out slow, almost like we weren’t ready to play.”
Each team was assessed a technical foul in the highly charged second period. And when NWC’s Derrick Farquharson threaded a leaning floater, was hacked and completed a three-point play, the Trojans had a 28-14 edge.
“We had too many (players) that didn’t step up and play their roles when we needed it,” Withers said. “We’re better than we’ve shown. We’ve won two games and I still wasn’t pleased. I see so much room for improvement. That’s what we have to do.”
It’s exactly what the Raiders did in the third quarter. Early baskets by Christian Holbrook and Rhyne cut a 10-point halftime deficit to 30-24. Moments later Eric Goldston drained a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 32-29. And twice the Raiders inched within two points, first on Goldston’s dribble drive through traffic for a layup with 4:54 remaining in the period and again when Graham-Wesley swished a short jumper from the left baseline 30 seconds later.
“We were right there in the third quarter,” said Graham-Wesley, who received precautionary treatment for a possible concussion after the game. “That showed how good we can be. We just have to play every minute like that.”
Instead, the Raiders threw up their arms and surrendered in the fourth quarter. They made only two field goals in the final period and watched NWC clinch the win when Farquharson — a 6-5 junior swingman — completed an invigorating three-point play that provided a 56-45 lead with 2:49 remaining.
SOUTH ROWAN (49) — Rhyne 12, Holbrook 10, Childers 9, Hill 7, Graham-Wesley 6, Goldston 5, Wilder, Stewart, Rary.
NW CABARRUS (63) — Caldwell 19, Murray 13, Farquharson 13, Wheet 9, Cummings 7, Davis 2.
S. Rowan 3 17 23 6 — 49
NWC 13 17 16 17 — 63