Published 12:00 am Friday, December 20, 2013
LANDIS — South Rowan ended a five-game losing streak on Thursday, and it was no coincidence that the slide ended on the same night that T’Vadis Graham-Wesley returned to the floor.
Graham-Wesley was ejected from South Rowan’s loss at West Rowan on Dec. 10 and sat out three games — two mandated by the state, with one more tacked on by the school.
But sports are all about second chances, and Graham-Wesley, who got lots of help from Qwan Rhyne and Lavon Hill, was special in South’s 76-70 overtime win against Central Cabarrus. The Raiders overcame 37 points by Central’s junior phenom Lavon Hightower.
Graham-Wesley is 6-foot-1 or so, but he’s the county’s best shotblocker. He erased a half-dozen Cental layups by taking flight, and those rejections were huge. Graham-Wesley also had a career-high 19 points for the Raiders (3-5, 1-4).
“It was the best game I’ve ever played, and it was, by far, the best game we’ve played this season,” Graham-Wesley said.
Rhyne scored 25 for the Raiders, many on ice-water free throws. That was one point short of his career high. Hill scored 12 and teamed with Graham-Wesley to rule the boards.
When Hightower drilled a 3-pointer with 7:10 remaining, Central led 48-41, and South was reeling.
“That guy was unstoppable,” Graham-Wesley said.
But then South went on a 14-0 run fueled by a technical foul called against Central’s Mason Hartsell, who had provided most of Hightower’s support in the scorebook and on the boards. Hartsell was called for his fourth personal away from the ball. Then he got a technical — ending his night — for commenting as he passed an official.
“That was a key turning point,” Central coach Brian King said. “Mason was playing well, and we lost him. Then they shoot four free throws and then they get the ball and score again. We were down one, and I look up, and we’re down seven.”
Still, Central fought back by forcing turnovers, and it was 61-61 after Kyran McClure scored off a steal with 20 seconds left.
The Vikings (1-8, 0-5) had the last possession of regulation but couldn’t get a shot off. King had called a play for Hightower but good defense by Alec Stewart kept him from getting a look.
Graham-Wesley’s drive down the lane, followed by his fadeaway, gave South the lead at the outset of overtime, and the Raiders never lost it.
“We distributed the ball and we played together as a team the best that we have all year,” South coach Bryan Withers said. “We got good looks all night long.”
CENTRAL (70) — Hightower 37, Hartsell 13, McClure 11, Thompson 4, Wilson 3, Johnson 2, Meadows, Dorton.
SOUTH (76) — Rhyne 25, Graham-Wesley 19, Hill 12, Spry 7, Holbrook 4, Childers 3, Stewart 2, Rary 2, Wilder 2, Finger.
C. Cabarrus 17 13 13 18 9 — 70
South 23 9 9 20 15 — 76