North boys in control against WD
SPENCER — No one designated it as “Don’t Mess With Michael Connor Night” at North Rowan Tuesday, but the acrobatic swingman made the night his own.
Connor, a 6-foot-2 senior, kept showing up at both ends of the court in the Cavs’ 83-36 CCC victory against visiting West Davidson.
“He was the stopper on our defense,” coach Andrew Mitchell said after North (12-5, 6-1) won for the third time in its last four outings. “He’s long, he’s rangy and he gets his hands on a lot of balls. He was a key for us.”
Connor also scored a game-high 19 points and sank all the baskets that mattered, despite playing little more than half the game. Considering his scoring line resembled a pearl necklace — 0-0-0-0-0 — when the teams last met in January, he was overjoyed with the effort.
“I had to sit that one out,” said Conner, who served a two-game suspension earlier this year. “But I made it count. I learned a lot. I sat and I studied what they did on offense and defense. You’ve got to close out and play defense on them. Don’t let them shoot. Don’t let them take a breath.”
The final score may not reflect it, but that took some doing. West (4-14, 1-5) came out with its sharpshooters on target and led 12-8, and later 15-11, in the first quarter.
“We had good spacing and good passing,” said losing coach Derrick Stokes. “But by the end of the first quarter we were turning the ball over and they were getting a lot of transition points. It got to the point where we weren’t very competitive.”
Connor sparked an 11-0 scoring spree that helped North move ahead 22-15 early in the second period. He began with a fadeaway jumper from the right baseline that drew a foul and resulted in a three-point play. A minute later he drove the left side for a layup. Then came a jailbreak layup before teammate Jalen Sanders confiscated a loose ball and hit a chip shot. Connor’s 3-pointer from the left side with 14 seconds remaining in the quarter made it nine unanswered points.
“It didn’t surprise me,” said NR super-sub Paris Hillie. “I knew (Connor) was going to come on when we needed him the most. He always does.”
Hillie, an energetic freshman, had back-to-back steals in the second quarter and turned both of them into layups, providing a 28-19 North lead. “We pressured up on defense,” he said. “We couldn’t let them come to us. We had to go to them.”
Sanders agreed. “Our defense did it,” he said after netting 10 of his 12 points in the first half. “When we went to West Davidson (a 62-54 win) they shot the ball really well. Tonight we had to get tighter, get around the screens and recognize who the shooters were.”
WEST DAVIDSON (36) — Queen 10, Grooms 5, Fortenberry 5, Little 5, Hollifield 4, Smith 3, Bennett 2, Simerson 2.
NORTH ROWAN (83) — Connor 19, Bowman 13, Sanders 12, Handy 9, Tatum 7, Nelson 7, Walker 6, Hillie 4, Scott 4, Billingsley 2, Archie, Mungin.
W. Davidson 15 7 5 9 — 36
N. Rowan 20 17 31 15 — 83