East, North on collision course — probably
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 25, 2013
SALISBURY — There’s a good chance the girls bracket in the Sam Moir Christmas Classic will provide some history.
Rowan County’s girls basketball teams have been involved in holiday tournaments since 1975, but this could be the first time that two unbeaten Rowan teams meet for a championship.
A long line of Rowan teams have entered this event unbeaten — East Rowan in 1983, 1986, 2001 and 2002; Salisbury in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2009; West in 1993 and 2012; South Rowan in 1996; North Rowan in 1992 and 2000, and Carson in 2011, but this is the first time we have two Rowan unbeatens in the same year.
East’s girls are 9-0 for the first time since 2001, which also was the last time the Mustangs won the Classic.
Even playing without senior guard Lauren Thomas (14.5 ppg) the last seven games, East has earned the No. 1 seed and obviously has a good team. But whether or not the Mustangs are the Moir favorite is debatable.
East’s schedule has not been challenging. Eight of the nine teams East has beaten have lost more than they’ve won. 1A South Davidson (7-2), a team East blew out 75-34 on opening night, is the lone exception. Still, if you talk to 100 fans, 99 are picking East to make to to the 6 p.m. championship game on Saturday. East’s path to that title game — the Mustangs haven’t played in one since 2008 — appears to be clear of serious roadblocks.
East has a 100-percent chance of staying undefeated today because it has the first-round bye.
East will be expected to get past its Friday semifinal because it will be matched up with either Salisbury (4-5) or Carson (4-5). East has beaten Salisbury 63-45 and has handled Carson 56-38.
No. 2 seed North Rowan (4-0) figures to stay on course for a Saturday meeting with the Mustangs.
North hasn’t played since Dec. 12, believe it or not, so the Cavaliers have to fight rust. North also hasn’t been challenged by its schedule. Half of North’s wins have been against Mooresville (2-6).
North opens with the 6 p.m. game today and plays No. 7 seed West Rowan (2-7). That’s the only Moir team high-powered North has encountered. The Cavaliers beat the Falcons 71-44.
North is most likely to face Davie (3-5) in a Friday semifinal, and a reason for that is No. 3 seed South Rowan (5-3) will be playing without Avery Locklear, the county’s leading scorer, when it meets No. 6 Davie in the 3 p.m. game today. Locklear broke her right hand in practice, and that was a Chuck Norris karate chop to the neck of the Raiders. Replacing 20 points per game isn’t easy.
Davie is the No. 6 seed based on its record, but it may be the third-best team in the field. Assuming Davie is at full strength — it wasn’t for its Dec. 20 game against Page — the 4A War Eagles are dangerous. They beat Carson by 30, they have three effective post players, and they played the toughest pre-Christmas schedule of anyone.
No. 4 seed Salisbury and No. 5 seed Carson both enter the tournament on an upswing, so their noon matchup today to kick off the tournament could be interesting, even though the Hornets already have beaten the Cougars twice. Salisbury, very young, but with some talent, has won three in a row after a 1-5 start. Carson has taken three of four after a 1-4 start.
It bears mentioning that Salisbury has won 23 of its last 24 Moir games. The Hornets have played well at Catawba for a long time, even last year when they went 2-1 and were runner-up to West Rowan.
West also has been on a roll in recent Moirs. The Falcons have won eight of their last 11.
North and South will be trying to turn around runs of misfortune in the Moir. North has lost 12 of its last 15 tournament games and hasn’t had a winning record in the event since 2006. South has lost 19 of its last 23 Moir games and hasn’t had a winning record in the tourney since 2001.
A lot of basketball will be played between now and Saturday evening, but the North-East matchup is likely to be the girls finale.
East hasn’t played anyone close to as good as North, while North hasn’t played anyone close to as good as East, so it’s hard to say what will happen.
North seniors Brielle Blaire (Virginia Tech) and Nycieko Dixon have scored more career points than anyone active in the county, boys or girls. East relies on 6-foot-4 Karleigh Wike (Richmond) and 6-3 Kelli Fisher, who have dominated the boards against their opponents.