High school basketball: South boys seek some solid victories
Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 27, 2022
Tenth in a series of reports on local basketball teams …
By Mike London
LANDIS — At Thanksgiving dinner, South Rowan boys basketball coach Daniel Blevins could be thankful for more wins than his team enjoyed all last season.
South won on opening night, making an outlandish number of free throws and prevailing at home against West Iredell, 77-70.
All those whistles prevented the game from flowing, but the bottom line felt really good. South was victory-starved after an 0-22 season in 2021-22.
“Winning does feel good and we want to get a winning mindset back,” Blevins said. “We know we’re already better than we were last season. We’re still young, but we’re a lot more experienced than we were a year ago.”
South wouldn’t have had a chance with Coach K and Hubert Davis coaching them in 2021-22. There was no chance, with the Raiders losing by 38 on an average night. The 36.9 points per game the Raiders were able to score was close to the record low for the program, while the 74.7 points they allowed — even with some running clocks — was close to the record high.
South started out with optimism last season, with a best-case scenario of respectability, but the roster was wrecked by Christmas, with four of the school’s better athletes no longer in uniform.
Jacob Ritchie, who returned from a football injury in time to make his season debut in Game 9, led the short-handed Raiders though some rough South Piedmont Conference nights in January and February. They showed up for every game. They didn’t quit. Blevins got them to the finish line with their heads held high, with Ritchie getting help from players such as Aaron Jones, Jadon Moore, Richard Gould, Gabe Pozyck, Elijah Anderson and Grayson McGuire. The night South put up 64 against East Rowan almost felt like a win — but East scored 85.
South played in the 2A Central Carolina Conference from 2017-18 to 2020-21 and matched up OK with most of the schools in that league. South won against Ledford, Oak Grove and Thomasville, among others, and managed to take 19 games in those four seasons.
Blevins’ first season at South was the shortened 2020-21 COVID season, South’s last one in the CCC. South went 4-10.
Realignment returned South to the 3A SPC in 2021-22, and it should be remembered that South went 1-47 in boys basketball during its last two seasons in 3A before it moved down to 2A.
3A basketball is always going to be a challenge for the Raiders. who haven’t had a winning season since 2008-09.
That’s why the opening night win was so big. South hadn’t been 1-0 at the start of a season since 2014.
South should win some more games.
It’s not out of the question that South can win a few conference games, although any SPC triumph would be considered an upset. The Cabarrus schools are good in boys basketball. Lake Norman Charter is good in boys basketball. On paper, West Rowan, East Rowan and Carson all have more than South does as this season begins.
But South should be able to compete this season. South should have a chance in a lot more games. There’s a positive vibe. Things are looking up.
Ritchie was a cornerstone player and his intensity and fight will be missed, but the overall roster is much deeper and more talented.
Anderson (8.1 points per game after being moved up from the jayvees) and Moore (4.0) had to play varsity as freshmen and took their lumps, but they’re excellent athletes and now they’re seasoned sophomores. They’re fast. They’re at their best as drivers and defenders.
Jones (4.9) scored 108 points as a varsity sophomore — second on the team behind Ritchie — and the forward could have a breakout junior year.
“He’s grown quite a bit to about 6-foot-3, he’s long and a good shooter,” Blevins said.
McGuire, a senior who can make some 3-pointers, is back, along with hustling junior guard Logan Ballard, junior guard Zion Jackson, who has the will and heart to be a disruptor on the defensive end, and improving 6-foot-4 junior post player Carston Carey.
“Carey leaned a lot from watching Ritchie and it shows,” Blevins said. “He’s solid. He’s reading the court well.”
A key will be two guys who began last season on the squad, but didn’t finish. They’re a year older and a year wiser.
Junior Dalton Young put up a 32-point game early last season, but his season lasted only six games. He also scored 32 in this season’s opener with West Iredell, so there’s a chance he’ll become a serious scorer for the Raiders. The guys who have produced multiple 32-point games for South is a pretty short list.
Senior Bronson Hunt has terrific athletic ability, maybe the most on the team, but he had only one impactful outing last season (14 points vs. Pine Lake Prep) while playing in a handful of games.
“Dalton can really shoot and Bronson is fast as can be,” Blevins said.
There are also some new faces — juniors Grayson Cromer and Drew Blackwell and seniors Jacob Saine and Devin Keene.
Keene is 6-foot-5. He’s raw, but he can help.
“He could get in the mix,” Blevins said. “He’s a shot-blocker.”
Saine is a swimmer who wanted to give basketball a try as a senior.
Cromer is one of the school’s top cross country runners.
“He can run for days and he’s got some basketball savvy,” Blevins said.
Blackwell is 5-foot-11, but plays taller. He contributed a great rebounding game in the win against West Iredell.
South’s second game wasn’t pretty — a 78-31 setback at North Rowan — but the Raiders are still confident of being much improved.
SOUTH ROWAN BOYS
Coach: Daniel Blevins (3rd season, 4-32)
2021-22: 0-22 overall, 0-14 3A South Piedmont Conference (8th)
Playoffs: Did not make playoffs
Top returners: Elijah Anderson, Aaron Jones, Jadon Moore
League: 3A SPC (West Rowan, East Rowan, Carson, Lake Norman Charter, NW Cabarrus, Central Cabarrus, Concord)