• 46°

GREENSBORO — North Rowan’s boys basketball team must know how late comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to feel.
Victories have come in abundance for the magma-hot Cavaliers this season. Respect, not so much.
“It’s not even that important,” senior Michael Bowman said yesterday at UNCG’s Fleming Gymnasium. “In the middle of the season they were coming out with all these Top 10 and Top 16 polls — and we weren’t even ranked. We were honorable mention. Well, look where we are now.”
Look indeed. North’s men-of-the-moment have survived five molar-grinding rounds of the 2A state playoffs, including a drawn-out weekend of single-elimination drama in Western Regional. The Cavs have persevered, with swords held high, and will carry an 11-game winning streak into Saturday’s state final. They’ve watched four ranked adversaries tumble at their feet — East Lincoln, Shelby, East Rutherford and now Smoky Mountain — and they are still standing.
But are they respected? Did some questionable, after-the-fact behavior by all involved leave North coach Andrew Mitchell feeling shortchanged?
“Respect is not given, it’s earned,” he told a small assembly of post-game media members after notching his 100th victory at North. “If we win a state title we will have earned it.”
They deserved something for yesterday’s narrow win over previously unbeaten and top-seeded Smoky Mountain. No, it wasn’t their Sunday-best, but the Cavs played like March madmen after coughing up all of a nine-point third-quarter lead.
“It was a really hard game to win,” said guard Jalen Sanders, one of three North scorers to crack double figures. “They’re not a bad team. When you go up against something like that, you can’t sleep.”
North was wide awake and looking to throw a knockout punch after a film-at-11 play by Kenyon Tatum with 3:40 remaining in the third period. The senior forward picked off a pass intended for Spencer Norris near midcourt, then stampeded through the left side for a layup that gave the Cavs a 40-32 lead. Hacked on the play by Zechariah Carter, Tatum calmly completed his three-point play.
“Every time they drove, it was hard,” said SM junior Cal Raleigh. “Especially at the end. That was their mindset. But I still believe if we play them again, we beat them. It was just one of those days.”
It was a day that began particularly well for Raleigh, a 6-foot-4 banger with a sweet shooting touch. He made four of his first five shots and stuck a trio of 3-pointers, finishing with 13 points in the opening quarter.
“He’s a versatile basketball player,” said Bowman, who finished with 19 points and left with the best-looking girl — the regional MVP award. “We had to play him man-to-man and gut it up.”
Raleigh had the game’s loudest numbers — 19 points, 16 rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. But on a day when the Mustangs shot only 35 percent from the field and were outrebounded 40-31, it wasn’t enough.
“We played our game,” he said in a crowded post-game hallway. “They didn’t stop us from that. It was just some of our shots weren’t falling, shots we make nine times out of 10.”
Instead it was North’s grinding offense and steel-wall defense that won this game. The Cavs led by five entering the fourth quarter and were up 53-47 when Bowman scored on a spinning, Twizzle play with 5:34 remaining.
“Yeah,” North’s Michael Connor smiled. “But against this team you couldn’t relax. Not until the final buzzer.”
Or at least not until Bowman drove the right side for his final basket, a decisive layup that snapped a 55-55 tie with 1:03 to play.
“It’s tough to walk away,” guard Jayce Wolfe said after SM’s season flatlined. “We thought we had the team to do it, to go all the way. We had all the pieces. But they were by far the best (team) we’ve played all year.”
Hmmm. Now a statement like that looks, sounds and smells like respect — a valued word that even the President trips over now and then.
“I think they’re a great team,” said Raleigh. “I can’t speak for everyone, but they’re well-respected by us.”
Mitchell, for one, would be happy to hear that.
“We’ve been treated this way all year long,” he said. “And I love where we’re at right now.”

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransome

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday