Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 25, 2013
SALISBURY — It’s funny how perspectives dramatically change in a matter of hours.
On Dec. 11, most had conceded this year’s Sam Moir Christmas Classic title to North Rowan’s boys. People were already engraving North’s name on the trophy.
Then on Dec. 12, Mooresville beat North’s Cavaliers like a drum — beat their pressure, beat ‘em on the boards, beat ‘em every way a team can be beaten.
North not only lost, it lost at home and it lost to a team that came to Spencer winless.
And just like that, as soon as that shocking score (67-49) became public knowledge, everyone started dreaming his or her team would win the Christmas tournament.
Well, the reality is this. North is beatable. Mooresville proved that. But North is really talented, Michael Connor, Michael Bowman and Jalen Sanders are three of the county’s best, Kenyon Tatum might be the county’s most athletic player, and North is still the favorite. As the top seed in a seven-team field, North only has to go 2-0, so it’s still better than 50/50 that the Cavaliers will celebrate their eighth title on Saturday night.
North almost wasn’t the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers could have dropped all the way down to No. 3 if West had won Thursday and Carson had won Friday, but West and Carson dropped their pre-Christmas finales.
North hasn’t played since that Mooresville mugging, so when it finally does play (in a Friday semifinal at 7:30), it’s going to be hungry for redemption.
North’s Andrew Mitchell has coached three state champions, two girls teams at Salisbury and one boys team at North, and his record with North’s boys is 82-14. He’s a stellar coach, so he’ll use that Mooresville debacle as an opportunity to get his high-flying team back to the basics. Some North players are so talented, they probably were thinking they could do it solo. This was a wakeup call that it’s still a 5-on-5 game, and Mitchell has been cheerfully stressing that point to an attentive audience for two weeks.
While North is clearly the best bet, No. 2 seed West Rowan (6-3) and No. 3 seed Carson (6-3) have experienced teams that could play consistently and hoist the hardware. Neither could beat North in a seven-game series, but in a one-and-done when the outside shots don’t fall for North — it could happen.
It’s hard to see No. 4 Salisbury (6-3), No. 5 South (3-5), No. 6 East (3-6) or No. 7 Davie (1-8) winning three days in a row, but all are capable on a given night. East proved that last week when it beat West. No one saw it coming. East had lost six straight, while West had won four straight.
There’s really not a major gap between most of the boys squads, so there won’t be an easy road for any of the teams trying to knock off North.
West already has played every team in the field, and the only game that wasn’t competitive was a 23-point romp against South. West only beat Davie by four. West beat Salisbury by seven and Carson by eight.
The boys games begin with today’s 1:30 p.m. Salisbury-South matchup. Those teams have not met this season. Salisbury’s three losses have come against West and Carson (twice). That’s why the Hornets, young but talented, are seeded fourth.
South is not a bad team, and the Raiders have Lavon Hill and T’Vadis Graham-Wesley back in the lineup now, so they’re athletic inside to go along with a solid Qwan Rhyne-Shawn Spry backcourt. South coach Bryan Withers starred at Salisbury in the late 1980s, so he’d like to get this one. Salisbury coach Jason Causby piloted three straight Moir champs from 2007-09. The reward for the South-Salisbury winner is North at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
Today’s 4:30 p.m. boys game is Carson vs. East. Carson held on 57-53 when the teams played in Granite Quarry. Carson coach Brian Perry starred at East, and he has outstanding players in guard Tre Williams and big guy Colton Laws. Williams and Laws are seniors on the road to 1,000 points. Williams has 936.
East coach Trey Ledbetter will be anxious to find out if sophomore Naquis Caldwell is going to be a consistent force. Caldwell’s 25-point outburst keyed East’s upset of West.
The final boys game today is West-Davie at 7:30 p.m. Davie coach Mike Absher has been in the Moir final three straight seasons. The War Eagles whipped North last December for the Moir title, but this is the ultimate rebuilding year for Absher, with all five starters gone. Davie sharpshooter Peyton Sell (21.6 ppg.) is the tournament’s top scorer. He put up 42 in a loss to North Davidson. Davie has lost seven straight but mostly to stout teams.
West has a familiar cast of characters, including coach Mike Gurley, who notched his 450th career win last week. The Falcons have balanced scoring with shooters Seth Martin and Celexus Long and slashers Devin Parks and Daisean Reddick, but rebounder/defender Najee Tucker is often the key guy.
Gurley has won four Moir titles, with the most recent in 2005. West hasn’t made a final since 2008.
A team to watch is Carson, which has never won the Moir but now has Shrine Bowler MyQuon Stout back in the lineup. The last two seasons, the Cougars are 14-2 against Rowan opponents.
Carson and North haven’t met since the 2010 Classic. North has a nine-game winning streak against Rowan opponents.
Daily admission is $7.