High school basketball: Six Rowan teams start playoffs tonight
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023
By Mike London
SPENCER — North Rowan’s boys basketball team bounced between 31st and 33rd in RPI rankings down the stretch, finally sliding in at No. 32 and edging South Davidson for the last spot in the 1A West bracket.
As crazy as it sounds, North’s first-round game tonight in Burnsville (7:30 p.m. tip) against No. 1 seed Mountain Heritage (23-1) might be interesting.
North will have more confidence than the standard No. 32. The Cavaliers have seen Mountain Heritage up close, scrimmaged the Cougars prior to the season, and from all reports, had no shortage of success in that scrimmage.
While North has experienced ups and downs and is just 12-14, the Cavaliers, who played a good chunk of the season without two of their top three scorers (Dyzarious Carpenter and Amir Alexander) still are far better than the typical No. 32 seed. North hasn’t lost in the first round of the playoffs in quite a while.
Throwing out the shortened COVID season when they didn’t qualify for the postseason, the Cavaliers reached the third round in 2022 and 2020 and they made the regional final in 2019. They made the second round in 2018.
The Cavaliers have taken some serious lumps this season from Salisbury, Thomasville and West Rowan, but North has talented athletes and a head coach in Jason Causby who has been in a lot of playoff games.
Mountain Heritage looks to be formidable, very tall and very good, with a 22-game winning streak. The Cougars have no doubt greatly improved since North saw them in the preseason.
To their credit, the MH Cougars did not play a typical 1A mountain schedule. They took on bigger schools. They split with Enka, a 21-6 3A. They beat West Henderson, a 3A conference champ. They edged 3A Crest, the team that West Rowan is playing tonight.
Mountain Heritage’s Max Smoker, a versatile 6-foot-7 player, averages 21 points and shoots a devastating percentage. Jesse Shelton, the center, is a powerful athlete and is one of the top track and field throwers in 1A. There’s a second Smoker, Vaughn, who is 6-foot-4 and does quite a bit of a scoring.
So the Cavaliers will be serious underdogs, and they’re facing a long road ride, but you never know. If George Maxwell has one of the those nights where he makes seven or eight 3-pointers, North could make it exciting in the fourth quarter.
Some North fans may opt to stay home and watch the girls play tonight.
North’s eighth-seeded girls will tip at 6 p.m. against No. 25 seed South Stokes (9-14).
North (18-8) will be led by junior guard Bailee Goodlett, who is having a phenomenal season, one of the best in school history. Her 38-point game against Salisbury last Friday wasn’t a career high, but it was probably the best game she’s ever played. She’s been shooting 3-pointers extremely well lately, in addition to getting her usual transition points.
Brittany Ellis also averages double figures for the Cavaliers.
Rebecca Amos and Sage Stovall have turned in plenty of double-doubles for South Stokes. Stovall had a whopping 23 rebounds against Mount Airy.
South Stokes plays in a solid girls league with Mount Airy, East Wilkes, North Stokes and Starmount, and while the Sauras were the fifth-place team, they probably are better than most fifth-place teams.
South Stokes was blown away twice by East Wilkes, but lost twice by one point to Mount Airy — one of those went double overtime — so this could be a good game.
West Rowan’s undefeated and top-seeded girls will tip at 7 p.m. at home tonight.
The Falcons (25-0) will take on West Charlotte. They’re hoping to start a run that will lead to their first state championship.
West Charlotte (7-16) finished 39th in the 3A West RPI rankings, one spot above South Rowan and well behind East Rowan (31st), but was an automatic qualifier for the playoffs, as the best of the two 3A schools in a split 3A/4A league.
West Charlotte swept West Meck, the one team it needed to take care of to get in the playoffs, and the Lions also posted league victories against 4As Hough and Hopewell.
West Rowan junior Lauren Arnold is 21 points away from 1,000 for her career. She leads the Falcons in scoring, but De’Mya Phifer, Tiara Thompson, Emma Clarke, Jamecia Huntley and Makaylah Tenor can all provide double figures for a very deep team.
West Rowan’s boys will play in Boiling Springs against Crest in a 3A West playoff game. Tip is at 7 p.m.
West lost a third-round battle (66-62) to Crest in the 2020-21 season.
The Falcons (15-9) have lost three out of their last four outings. They’ll count on steady scorer Will Givens and point guard Kayvone Norman for big games tonight. Elijah Holmes is coming off a career-best, 20-point outing, and the Falcons could use a similar performance tonight.
Crest is known for the defensive pressure that is favored by veteran coach Brad “Bull” LeVine.
The top player for the Chargers is point guard A.J. Adams, who averages 15.9 points and stuffs the stat sheet across the board. He gets a lot of steals and a lot of assists.
Tylik Briscoe also has come through with some big scoring games for Crest.
Salisbury’s teams will play a doubleheader at home.
The third-seeded Salisbury girls will tip at 6 p.m. in what is not expected to be a challenging contest.
The Hornets (21-3) are led by four experienced seniors — Kyla Bryant, Mary Morgan, Haley Dalton and Icesis Nwafor — and junior MaKayla Noble is one of the county’s best.
Bryant, a recent North Carolina Central commit, is filling it up for more than 23 points per game. Nwafor is coming off a career-best 25 points in Friday’s Central Carolina Conference Tournament championship game against North Rowan.
Wilkes Central (6-18) is seeded 30th and will come to Salisbury with an eight-game losing streak. Wilkes Central hasn’t won a road game all season. The most recent outing for the Eagles was a 41-point loss.
Strength of schedule pushed Wilkes Central into the playoffs. Their opponents’ winning percentage was 57 percent. Wilkes Central plays in a good league with North Surry, East Surry, North Wilkes and Forbush.
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Salisbury’s sixth-seeded boys will tip at about 7:30 p.m. against 27th-seeded Pine Lake Prep, a Mooresville school.
Pine Lake Prep (14-11) tied for third in a 1A/2A league consisting of charter and prep schools. The league includes powerhouse Lincoln Charter and a good Community School of Davidson team.
Pine Lake Prep has lost four in a row and isn’t likely to challenge Salisbury, but this is a big team with unusually tall perimeter players in 6-foot-5 Robert Magner and 6-foot-4 Lucas Strickfaden.
The Hornets (19-5) have won 12 in a row and have a lot of momentum after putting five men in double figures and beating Thomasville for the Central Carolina Conference tourney title.
That’s the most balanced help the Hornets have been able to provide all season for Juke Harris, a junior who is averaging 30 points per game.