Prep boys: South comes close, but falls for 44th straight time
By Mike London
LANDIS — On Monday, playing at home, South Rowan’s boys came agonizingly close to finally ending a losing streak that has now reached 44 games.
The final score was Northwest Cabarrus 63, South Rowan 55, but the South Piedmont Conference contest was much closer than it sounds. When Tyrese Shaver rose and drilled a 3-pointer from the left side with seven minutes left, the Raiders held a 40-32 lead and appeared ready to finally bring a smile to the face of patient coach Andre McCain.
But it didn’t happen. Northwest (6-12, 3-11 SPC) refused to let it happen, spoiling the party by scoring 31 points in the final seven minutes — after scoring 32 in the first 25.
What Northwest does best is rebound, and what South does worst is rebound. In the end, the glass-kicking the Raiders (0-20, 0-14 SPC) took in the fourth quarter did them in.
“We’re on the edge, but we’ve got to take the leap,” McCain said. “This is the third time — Kannapolis, West Rowan and now tonight — that we’ve been right there. We’ve had the game in our grasp, but we just couldn’t finish. We missed layups, we missed free throws, and we didn’t take care of the basketball. We played a good 24 minutes, but we’ve got to play 32.”
Small forward Shaver had a terrific outing for South, coming through with a career-best 18 points. Shooter Bailey Graham, South’s leading scorer for the season, drilled three 3-pointers and scored 17. Point guard Dillon Kluttz got eight of his 12 points at the foul line. Foul trouble to Kluttz contributed to the Raiders’ demise in the fourth quarter. Zach Powers blocked numerous shots and changed several more. Garrett Harrington was in foul trouble but had his moments.
South came out in a 2-3 zone, packed way back, and Northwest fired blanks at it. Kluttz got Shaver involved early and often with penetration and pinpoint passes, and South gained confidence. South led 11-10 after a quarter.
Northwest foul trouble piled up alarmingly in the second quarter — three key guys had three before halftime — and South buried 11 second-quarter free throws to take a 24-20 halftime lead.
“We were in the double bonus with four minutes left in the half,” McCain said. “We just needed to keep attacking and to make foul shots. We could’ve extended our lead a lot more.”
South maintained a lead in the third quarter, leading by as many as eight on a Graham 3-pointer and going up 37-32 at the end of the period when reserve guard Cameron Corriher spun down the lane for a driving layup. Hunter Foreman scored seven in a hurry off the NWC bench, or South would’ve been up double digits.
When Shaver made his 3-pointer a minute into the fourth quarter, South fans were practically spilling out of the bleachers with hope, but over the next minute, the Raiders, with their backcourt in foul trouble, unraveled with point-blank misses and turnovers that NWC turned into layups.
“Our press really bothered them,” NWC coach Eric Jackson said. “When we tried to press them earlier in the game they took care of the ball, but our intensity was higher in the fourth quarter. We had a sense of urgency.”
McCain said he desperately tried to get a timeout during that killer Northwest spree, but his players, trapped on the other end of the floor and with the crowd screaming, didn’t hear him.
“They said they couldn’t hear me,” McCain said. “But they can call a timeout. We needed a floor general.”
With the score 40-all, Harrington made two free throws for a slim lead, but Northwest was scoring on every possession, pounding the offensive board and knocking down free throws.
A three-point play by Kluttz stopped the bleeding briefly, and the Raiders trailed 48-45 with 3:30 left. But Northwest, energized and confident, scored the next six points, and pulled away from there.
“We did a good job to overcome the foul trouble we had early,” Jackson said. “We forced a lot of turnovers. We got a lot of stick-backs. We still believe we can finish this season strong.”
Chalen Stafford-Gill, a stick-back waiting to happen, powered in 14 points to lead the Trojans. Former Raider Ahmod Hester hurt his old teammates with a big fourth quarter and tallied 11. Trevon Hobson calmly knocked seven fourth-quarter free throws.
NW CABARRUS (63)
Stafford-Gill 14, Hobson 13, Hester 11, Gustave 8, Perkins 4, Foreman 7, Littrell 2, Murdock 2, Isom 1, Kirk 1,
Shaver 18, Graham 17, Kluttz 12, Harrington 3, Powers 2, Corriher 2, Jones 1, Childers, Peacock, Sellers.
NW Cabarrus 10 10 12 31 — 63
S. Rowan 11 13 13 18 — 55