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High school basketball: Notebook

By Mike London

High school hoops notebook …

While South Rowan senior Janiya Downs was breaking the school record for career scoring with her 92-point explosion in three games in the Dale’s Sporting Goods Sam Moir Christmas Classic, 5-foot-3 buzz saw Lyrik Thorne was breaking Ledford’s career record with 99 points in three games in the Davidson County Christmas Classic.

While Downs broke a record set by Avery Locklear just four years ago, Thorne broke a school mark set by Stacey Hinkle 20 years ago.

Downs and Thorne will be joining forces next season at Catawba College as part of an exciting recruiting class for first-year head coach Terrence Baxter.

Thorne, the reigning Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year, has scored even more points than Downs (1,809) in her high school career. Assuming good health, both standouts are headed well past the 2,000 plateau.

With modern rules, only three girls have scored 2,000 points in Rowan County — Salisbury’s Shayla Fields (2,783), North Rowan’s Sophilia Hipps (2,264) and North’s Stephanie Cross (2,109). All three were Division I players, with Fields heading to N.C. State; Hipps to South Carolina State and Cross to Maryland.

The 5-foot-11 Downs, who has scored 32-35-29-28-37-27-28 in her last seven outings, figures to be the fourth to get to 2,000.

Cross broke the 2,000 barrier in 1994. Fields (Class of 2005) and Hipps (2006) were only one year apart and dueled with each other for three exciting seasons.

Fields’ amazing career total may never be topped because it was a perfect storm. She was a great player playing on strong teams that won a lot of postseason games and competed for state titles. More games equals more points.

Fields scored an incredible 835 points in her senior year alone, with 791 as a junior and 690 as a sophomore. She was “held” to 467 as a freshman. Fields already had 1,157 points after her sophomore season.


The girls scoring records for the other schools besides South, North and Salisbury?

Ayana Avery has held the West Rowan record since 2011 with 1,995 points. Maggie Rich set the East Rowan record in 2004 with 1,917. Carson’s record was broken last season by Olivia Gabriel (1,679).


There’s been an interesting evolution of the South girls record.

Ginny Smith played her sophomore year at China Grove High. When South Rowan opened for the 1961-62 school year, she became the school’s first female star, scoring 760 points in two seasons.

Smith’s teammate, Beth Miller, became South’s first 1,000-point scorer in 1965 with 1,016 points. Miller averaged an unheard of 20.6 points per game as a senior. South’s team averaged 37.5.

Modern five-on-five rules arrived for girls basketball in the early 1970s.

Wanda Watkins (Class of 1981) poured in 1,349 points in three seasons to break Miller’s school mark. Watkins became only the second South player to average 20 points per game in a season in 1979-80 and she was the first to score 500 points in a season.

After Watkins, no South girl would average 20 points a game for a season until Avery Locklear in 2014.

Tracy Connor, now in the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame, established a new South career mark in 1992, scoring 1,452 points in her three seasons to break Watkins’ record. Connor’s teams were almost too good. She sat down early in a lot of blowout games. There’s no telling how many she might have scored.

Jill Cress, a feisty guard who had the benefit of a fourth year of varsity play, set a new career standard at South in 1997 with 1,529 points.

That mark stood for almost two decades until Locklear came along. Locklear finished her four-season career in 2015 with 1,795 points.

And now there’s Downs — 1,809  … and counting. Downs averaged a school-record 21.2 points per game as a junior and is likely to top that as a senior. Downs, who averaged 19.9 as a freshman and 20.8 as a sophomore, probably will be the first South player to average 20 points per game for her entire career.

For their careers, Locklear averaged 18.7; Watkins 18.5; Smith 18.1, and Connor 17.9.


Some of the boys school records in Rowan have stood for an incredibly long time.

James Henderson’s 1,654 points at North Rowan, a school mark set way back in 1972, still stands. Jalen Sanders gave it a good run a few years ago, but fell short.

Larry Lentz set the South record in 1989 with 1,122 points, and South hasn’t had another male 1,000-point scorer since then. Carlos Dixon only played two seasons at South.

Bobby Phillips scored 1,849 points for Salisbury in 1994, another mark that has stood the test of time. Phillips was a Southern Conference Player of the Year at Western Carolina.

Shamari Spears probably would’ve broken it if he’d played at Salisbury four seasons.

Justin Vanderford’s record at East Rowan (1,684) has been around for a decade now.

Darius Moose (1,768) set the Carson standard in 2010 and his total held off Jamarius Hairston last season.

Scooter Sherrill (2,469) set the West Rowan and county mark in 2000. As was the case with Fields in the girls ranks, it was a perfect storm. A great high school player playing on exceptional teams that played a lot of games.

The Rowan all-time scoring list is filled with interesting names such as 2002-03 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Bobby Jackson (Salisbury, Class of 1992).

The late Jay Ritchie, Class of 1955 at Granite Quarry High,  pitched in the majors.

There’s also Bill Ray Barnes, who scored a ton of points for Landis High in the early 1950s. He was in several Pro Bowls and won an NFL championship game with the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles.


A.L. Brown’s surprising boys basketball team is 10-0 after winning the East Lincoln Winter Jam as the No. 2 seed.

The Wonders handled Gastonia Forestview easily in the first round and squeaked past third-seeded Victory Christian, 46-45, in the semifinals. Amare Haynie, a talented sophomore, scored 20 in that one.

Top-seeded East Lincoln lost to fifth-seeded Mallard Creek in two overtimes in the other semifinal.

A.L. Brown then beat Mallard Creek, 71-65 in the championship game.

Sophomore Nick Colson had a career game with 27 points against Mallard Creek. Colson showed flashes of brilliance as a North Rowan varsity freshman last season.

Freshman Kheni Briggs scored 15 points, while Haynie had 12.

Haynie was named tourney MVP. Briggs and Elijah Isom made all-tournament.

Shelwyn Klutz, who starred for the Wonders in the 1980s before heading to Mars Hill, is in his 22nd year as A.L. Brown’s coach. He recalls also being 10-0 in 2002 with a team led by Aundrae Allison and Brandon Thomas.


A.L. Brown’s boys will complete their suspended game at East Rowan at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

East led that game at halftime, 26-19, when the scoreboard malfunctioned.


A.L. Brown’s boys game with Davie County on Jan. 9 in Kannapolis is looking like an exciting matchup after both teams won their Christmas tourneys.

Davie won the Dale’s Sporting Goods Sam Moir Christmas Classic, beating West Rowan, North Stanly and Salisbury.


Cox Mill’s powerful boys won’t go undefeated. The Chargers, two-time defending champs in 3A, lost to a Kentucky team in the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.


The North Piedmont Conference girls race should be something.

Moir champion Carson (14-0) is obviously very good. West Rowan (11-1) had a rough outing against Salisbury in a Moir semifinal, but is good. East Rowan hasn’t played the toughest schedule, but it’s hard to argue with 11-2.

North Iredell and Statesville played for the championship of Iredell’s Christmas tourney, with North Iredell winning, 55-54. North Iredell is 9-1. Statesville is 9-2.


Carson senior McKenzie Gadson, Salisbury senior Bryanna Troutman and West Rowan junior Abigail Wilson have all scored more than 1,200 points in their careers and should end up among the county’s all-time top 25 scorers. Downs is already seventh.


The next boys player to reach 1,000 in Rowan County figures to be North Rowan senior Brevin Goodlett. He has 888 points.


After six games, North Davidson’s phenomenal guard Themus Fulks is averaging 31.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 4.7 steals per game. Fulks scored 103 in a three-day Christmas tournament against some strong private schools.



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