High school basketball: North loses YVC lead

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2020

By Mike London

SPENCER — Chatham Central boys coach Robert Burke told his team the first two minutes would be decisive — and he was correct.

Chatham Central’s Michael Moore rejected two shots early and Phillip Gaines made two 3-pointers early, while North Rowan’s towering sophomore Brandon White missed two dunks early.

Chatham’s Bears jumped on the Cavaliers, 9-2, and never really let up. It was a Yadkin Valley Conference showdown for first place that turned into a very lopsided 54-30 Chatham Central victory.

“We’ve been taking baby steps for a while,” Burke said. “Last year, in the first round of the playoffs, we went to Pamlico County and beat them on their home turf. That gave our guys a taste of success, and they’re building on it. Tonight we played with a whole lot of confidence. This win was a lot bigger than Pamlico.”

Chatham Central (14-4, 9-1) played in the Central Tar Heel Conference mostly against charter schools in recent seasons. This season, it’s competing in the YVC against some talented traditional public schools and has taken everyone by surprise. North Rowan (11-6, 9-2) was the latest victim.

“We knew we had to slow North Rowan down, and we went out and executed that plan,” Burke said. “We took them out of their game and we made them play our game.”

Brandon Jefferson made a 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers a bit of life, but they still trailed 14-6 after a quarter.

Three minutes into the second quarter, the 6-foot-9 1/2 White, who averages 13 points and almost as many rebounds, picked up his third personal foul.

“With Brandon in foul trouble, we never could establish anything inside,” North coach Jason Causby said. “And right now we’re not where we want to be with our perimeter game. When we have to take a lot of outside shots, that’s when we’ve struggled.”

North couldn’t have struggled any more than it did in the first half, but was still in the game at halftime — down 23-16.

“In the first half, we were 1-for-5 on 3s, made 13 turnovers and missed five free throws,” Causby said. “And we’re still only down seven. So we thought we were in pretty good shape.”

That positive thinking didn’t last long. Moore scored inside to open the second half, Preston Cox connected on a drive. There were a couple of free throws, and then the 6-foot-4 Moore, the football team’s QB, dunked a pass off the backboard. It was suddenly 31-16, and the Cavaliers were in serious trouble.

“We played 3-2 zone, but then we switched to a 2-1-2 zone, and that threw them off some,” Burke said. “We did a really good job defensively and limited their offensive rebounds. Everybody we played contributed.”

The last time it looked like the Cavaliers had any realistic chance to rally came when White scooped a long pass off the floor and made a galloping dunk to make it a 35-25 game with 2:28 left in the third quarter. That play briefly energized the crowd, but White’s fifth foul came a little over a minute later when he blocked a 3-pointer but made contact with the shooter after the rejection. The Cavaliers slid back down by 13 by the end of the quarter and were fading fast.

Moore opened the fourth quarter with a nice head fake and baseline jumper, and the Bears were off and running to a dominant fourth quarter. They won going away, clapping their hands and grinning. For many of the Bears it was sweet revenge for the 72-3 pummeling North laid on them during the football season.

“Chatham Central did a good job of spreading our defense out and they made big shots early that got them going,” Causby said. “We were faced with adversity and didn’t respond very well. We finished with almost as many turnovers (24) as we did points, and that’s just not good.”

Both teams already have split with a tough South Stanly squad. Chatham Central is just about certain to win the league if it beats North Rowan in the rematch in Bear Creek on Feb. 4.

CHATHAM CENTRAL (54) — Moore 16, Gaines 12, Skertich 11, Cox 9, Wilson 6, Gurley, Crawley.

NORTH ROWAN (30) — Goodes 6, Jefferson 5, Robinson 5, Davis 4, Carpenter 4, White 2, Gladden 2, Mitchell 2, Wilson, Watkins, Sims.

Chatham Central    14   9   15   16   — 54

North Rowan          6    10   9    5    — 30