KANNAPOLIS — South Rowan’s girls basketball team locked eyes with certain defeat Tuesday night — and refused to blink.
The unbeaten Raiders wiped out an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit at Northwest Cabarrus and fled the scene with a 63-55 win in their SPC opener.
“It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty,” coach Jarrod Smith said after SR earned its third victory. “Any time you go on the road and beat someone in their home gym, especially in this league, it’s going to be tough. This team, a year ago when they were young, would have lost that game.”
The junior-laden Raiders are growing up before our eyes — and this triumph was convincing evidence. Despite an abundance of carelessness (31 total turnovers), Northwest (1-2, 0-1) opened a 19-10 lead early in the second quarter and jogged into its locker room with a 28-25 advantage.
“At halftime I told them, ‘Yeah, you’re winning. But you’re getting outplayed,’” said Trojans’ coach Anthony Bethea. “I couldn’t get over the passes that led to all those turnovers. For three quarters we were fortunate.”
South was paced by juniors Avery Locklear and Cassidy Chipman. Locklear scored a season-high 29 points and had four steals despite sitting out the final 1:09 with a leg cramp. Chipman contributed 17 points, 10 steals and nine rebounds in a coming-of-age performance.
“All I want to do is win for my team,” she said with a postgame smile. “Last year we wouldn’t have been able to come back from that. This year we know what to run, who to give it to and how to penetrate.”
Smith called it baby steps and added: “I think we’re growing up. Last year we would have lost this game. This year we come back from a double-digit deficit to win.”
South found itself on the short end of a 52-41 count after Northwest’s Bryana Hott hit a putback with 5:42 to play. It was the Trojans’ final basket. Smith used a timeout and the Raiders responded with a 16-0 run sparked by Locklear (9 points) and Chipman (a pair of authoritative layups).
“I just remember being down and all we wanted to do was get back up,” Locklear said. “We were determined. It could have been 20 and we would have come back. It’s because we’re thinking more, we have more basketball knowledge. And we all want the same thing — to win.”
SOUTH ROWAN (63) — Locklear 29, Chipman 17, Corriher 9, Bost 7, Martin 1, Figueroa, Stamey, Waters, McClendon, Smith.
NW CABARRUS (55) — Bennett 22, Smith 11, Bost 7, Hott 6, Grant 5, Lamburt 4.
S. Rowan 10 15 16 22 — 63
NWC 16 12 17 10 — 55