High school basketball: North girls win 20th, advance to second-round road game

Published 3:29 am Wednesday, February 26, 2020

By Mike London

SPENCER — In the second, third and fourth quarters on Tuesday, Mountain Island Charter School’s girls basketball team showed that it could compete with North Rowan.

But that first quarter? That first quarter was something else.

North Rowan looked downright scary in that first quarter when it bolted out of the blocks, turned a basketball playoff game that was supposed to be competitive into a track meet.  North turned the game into a layup drill, and took a 27-2 lead.

Yes, 27-2.

The final in the 1A first-round mismatch was 70-40 — credit MICS for never quitting — but everything was settled in those first eight minutes. After those first eight minutes, it was time for North fans to smile and think about Round 2.

“We didn’t finish as strong as we wanted to,” said North sophomore Hannah Wilkerson, who had 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. “But the start was exactly what we wanted. Our defense was great. Defense is the strength of our team. Our defense creates offense.”

That’s a familiar mantra, always the game plan for any team that fits North’s profile. Small, but quick.  Decent shooters, but much better attackers.

You can’t execute a game plan any better than North (20-8) did. It was 14-0 while people were still buying tickets.

“We played the way we want to play,” North head coach Lamar Wilkerson said. “That’s our style of basketball. Defensive leading to offense and lots of quick transition points.  I know we haven’t been consistent. We don’t always play like that. But we do have the ability to play like that, and when we do, we’re a really good team.”

North Rowan’s best player on Tuesday wasn’t the high-scoring Hannah Wilkerson or veteran point guard Natavia Taborn, two girls who were all-county last season and have scored more than 800 career points apiece.

On this night,  freshman Kamora Cannie was queen of the court, and that’s really scary. Cannie, who transferred to North from  4A South Meck, where she had made the team, is comfortable running the show as the lead guard or playing off the ball as a scoring threat. She made two 3-pointers and had 14 points before halftime. She finished with 19 points and 10 assists.

“Hannah and Kamora both had double-doubles tonight and some others were close,” Coach Wilkerson said. “It was one of those nights when all five starters played well and we got some good play off the bench.”

After that initial North avalanche, the MICS Raptors settled down, but the Cavaliers were in complete command at the half  with a 41-10 lead.

“We played as a team, and everyone was getting points and also making good passes for assists,” Cannie said. “Our post players were doing a great job of boxing out, and that was leading to rebounds and easy points.”

Zhara Bichara, a quick, springy guard, did most of the work as far as lifting MICS to a respectable 40 points. Bichara scored 25.

“She was fast,” Cannie said. “And very athletic.”

North got 12 points and seven rebounds from Makiya McDaniel, while Kimya Lynch had 11 points and eight boards.

“Kimya doesn’t get much attention, but she’s always rebounding and defending,” Coach Wilkerson said.

Chloee Stoner came off the bench to score nine points. She swished one 3-pointer and happily banked in another one.

Darlissa Robbins, who came back from an ACL injury to be part of this team, scored two and yanked down several rebounds.

Wilkerson, Cannie and Taborn have produced lots of big games, but this was one of North’s best as far as balance.

North Rowan had hoped to win its second straight Yadkin Valley Conference tournament last week, but lost to Gray Stone (which has lost only to North Rowan) in the final.

That  championship loss may have had some impact on Tuesday’s incredible start.

“The girls were disappointed we didn’t win the tournament,” Coach Wilkerson said. “But I think it contributed some of the fire we had tonight.”

The win was the 20th of the season for North, the first time the Cavaliers have reached 20 since 2006 when they had Sophilia Hipps and Shemieka Brown.

It was the first playoff victory for North since 2016 when the Cavaliers made the third round in 2A.

Next for the Cavaliers is a trip to play at sixth-seeded Community School of Davidson. Sixth-seeded CSOD beat Thomas Jefferson Academy 49-21 on Tuesday.

Community School of Davidson beat North in the first round of last season’s playoffs.

MTN. ISLAND CHARTER (40) — Bichara 25, C. Hatzopoulos 7, Decker 3, E. Hatzopoulos 3, Richie 2.

N. ROWAN (70) — Cannie 19, Wilkerson 13, McDaniel 12, Lynch 11, Stoner 9, Taborn 4, Robbins 2, King, Elder.

MIC              2     8    17  13   — 40

N. Rowan   27  14  19  10   — 70