Prep Basketball: Sanders leads Cavaliers
By Mike London
SPENCER — For debuting South Rowan boys basketball coach Andre McCain, there was a mixture of pride and pain every time North Rowan star Jalen Sanders took the ball to the rim.
McCain coached Sanders as an AAU youngster back in the day, but now he wears green and gold and is the county’s top performer.
“We won a national championship in those AAU days,” Sanders said with a smile. “Coach McCain is a great coach and he had South Rowan ready to play tonight. They showed us we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
North jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never appeared to be in trouble, but the Cavaliers, who have three returning all-county players, weren’t able to put South away until late in the contest.
It was still a seven-point game midway through the third quarter.
“South came in here very organized and going at us hard, and that was just what we needed for our first game,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said. “They forced us to run our stuff and to execute. If we’d just settled for jacking up 3s, we could’ve gotten beat tonight, but we made good cuts and set some good screens and got high-percentage shots.”
Sanders is high-percentage every time he touches it and scored 22, mostly by overpowering South guards close to the hoop. Joseph Scott scored 18 with his standard mix of non-stop hustle and athleticism. Scott had nine points in the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers pushed a 13-point lead to 20.
North led 27-10 early in the second quarter but settled for a 29-18 halftime lead.
“We lost some focus in that second quarter,” Mitchell said. “But we played better in the second half.”
South stayed as close as it did as long as it did because Trey Littlejohn (11 points) was a quick-handed, spinning blur in the open floor and because sophomore Tyrese Shaver (16 points) was a surprisingly effective finisher in the paint.
“What I told our guys was we played with a very good team most of the night,” McCain said. “But we have to take care of the ball better and we have to be more consistent for 32 minutes.”
Alonzo Sirleaf played well for someone who just came off the football field and had several strong finishes for the Cavaliers.
North lost Joe Harrison, who had two blocked shots, to an ankle injury that may keep him out a while.
The Cavs still hope to have another returning standout, Henderson Lentz, available later in the season.
South got 3-pointers from Colson Childers, Amod Hester and Marquis Rhyne. North didn’t make a 3-pointer until Sanders drilled one early in the fourth quarter.
For South, which opens SPC play Monday against Northwest Cabarrus, it was an encouraging start.
“Effort and attitude are the things we have control over,” McCain said. “I can’t complain about those things.”
North Rowan 64, South Rowan 44
SOUTH ROWAN (44) — Shaver 16, Littlejohn 11, Hester 5, Rhyne 5, Hill 4, Childers 3, Barringer, Peacock, Butler, Greer, Clodfelter.
NORTH ROWAN (64) — Sanders 22, Scott 18, Sirleaf 8, Handy 7, Shields 4, Harrison 2, Haley 2, Clemens 1, Hooper, Alexander, Cook, Cuthbertson.
South Rowan 6 12 16 10 — 44
North Rowan 14 15 18 17 — 64