Round 3 area basketball preview
After a competitive first round by area conference schools, Thursday’s second round was not as kind, as 16 combined boys and girls teams were whittled down to seven for Saturday’s third round in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association basketball tournament. Winners on Saturday will advance to Tuesday’s state quarterfinal round for the right to play next Saturday for the regional championship.
On the boys’ side, the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference teams bid adieu to the postseason, as did three of the five Western Foothills 3A Conference schools. One of those, North Iredell, advanced at the cost of conference foe Hickory’s season. Oddly, the Raiders and North Lincoln, which took out another area school in Freedom, finished third and fourth in the conference, but they are the two left. Meanwhile, West Caldwell plugs along as the last 2A survivor from the area. All three teams will play on the road.
For the girls, only two of the six Northwestern 3A/4A teams that made it to the second round advanced, including 4A West No. 1 Watauga. Alexander Central stayed in the hunt by winning a tense game on the road. East Lincoln also went down to the wire to remain in the 3A tournament. In the 2A bracket, Newton-Conover is the lone Catawba County team — boys or girls — remaining.
Below is a look at all seven matchups involving area teams.
(Note: Coaches were asked to give their impressions of their teams’ play on Thursday, as well as keys for Saturday and beyond. Some answers were edited for clarity. All but one game will be on NFHSNetwork.com. A subscription is required.)
No. 6 North Surry (18-5) at No. 3 Newton-Conover (24-2), 3 p.m.
Coach: Sylvia White
Key players: Cassidy Geddes, Jr., Emma Fox, Sr., Hannah Watkins, Sr., Lizzie Sain, Jr.
When Fox went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter, Geddes stepped up and took control of Thursday’s contest against Wheatmore. The junior point guard had 39 points, 12 rebounds and seven steals to lead the Red Devils to a 68-59 win over the Warriors. Sara Sain also had 14 in the contest for Newton-Conover, which will play in the round-of-16 for the fourth time in the four years of White’s current tenure with the team. Victors in 15 straight games, a win on Saturday will return the Red Devils to the quarterfinals for the second time with White in this term. The other visit came in 2020, when they went on to take the 2A state co-championship. For the season, Geddes averages just under 21 points a game with four assists. Lizzie Sain, who would take a larger role in the post should Fox remain out, pulls down nearly eight boards per game.
White’s comments: “We were pleased with our play (Thursday) on both ends of the floor. Cassidy had a great game, but we got great play from Hannah Watkins, Lizzie and Sara Sain, as well as Monet Wilson, who stepped up big in the absence of Fox. We have to maintain our defensive play and win the boards to continue. We also must have everyone contributing on the offensive side.”
About North Surry:
Coach: Shane Slate
Key players: Callie Allen, Sr., Sadie Badgett, So.
The Greyhounds defeated Catawba Valley 2A Conference member Bunker Hill in the first round (Badgett had 15 points) and advanced to Saturday’s game with a 59-49 win over Southwestern Randolph. With a team that tends to play low-scoring games, Allen is the lone player in double figures in scoring (14.9) per game. Badgett is close at 9.8 per contest. North Surry has cleared 60 points just nine times but has allowed more than 50 just twice. Patience, patience and more patience to get a good shot is the Greyhounds’ game. A win would get North Surry into the quarterfinals for the first time since it was the 2A state runner-up in 2017.
Series history: The teams have split playoff wins in recent seasons. North Surry won the last contest 46-25 in the first round back in 2014. Newton-Conover advanced to regionals back in 2010 with a 51-48 nail-biter.
No. 5 East Lincoln (28-1) at No. 4 North Davidson (23-2), 6 p.m. (NFHS)
About East Lincoln:
Coach: Jason Otey
Key players: Madison Self, Jr., Hailey McFadden, Fr., Ginny Overbay, Jr., Taliyah Thomas, Sr, Raven Ross, Sr., Kelsey Campo, Sr.
McFadden followed a missed shot with two seconds left that was the difference in a 58-56 win over West Rowan in Round 2. The shot culminated a rally from six down after three quarters. Thomas had 18 points to lead the Mustangs with McFadden putting in 15 and pulling down 10 rebounds. Self averages 12 points and just under 10 boards per game. Winners of 17 in a row, East Lincoln is looking to advance into the state quarterfinals for the first time.
Otey’s comments: “I liked where we were mentally and competitively Thursday night. We stayed in the moment through all the ebbs and flows of the game. Even when we were down nine with six minutes to go, we stayed positive and stayed the course. We were not playing bad at all, but West Rowan was playing really well to finish the third quarter and the start of the fourth. We just continued to compete and the kids made the necessary adjustments, either called by the coaches or on their own. We have a good mix of experience and youth. The experience put us in position to win and the youth finished it off. This team has shown up every night to do their job and we seem to be peaking at the right time. It may not always be pretty, but they bring the heart, hustle and desire necessary to have a chance to win every night and that’s all we can ask for. They love playing together and for each other.
“We just have to continue to be ourselves and continue to play fast, physical and aggressive defense, rebound well and compete on each possession. If we do that, then we live with the result. When you get to this stage, everyone is really good and can beat each other. Many times, you need some luck or some breaks, but if you play hard and try to win the battle of the little things, like hustle points, charges, loose balls, etc., you can manufacture some luck and get some breaks.”
About North Davidson:
Coach: Katelyn Frazier
Key Players: Emily Hege, Sr., Lettie Michael, Jr.
Hege scored 31, including the final 11 points, as the Black Knights outpaced Northwest Cabarrus 77-74 on Thursday. North Davidson held a 20-11 lead after one quarter and was up six after three, but held on after being outscored 30-27 in the final quarter. Michael had 14 with Rebekah Minton and Amiyah Mitchell each dropping in 11. Winners of 14 in a row, a win would put the Black Knights into the quarterfinals for just the second time in the program’s history, the first since 1998.
Next up: No. 1 Carson (24-3) or No. 9 Ashbrook (20-8)
No. 4 Lake Norman (23-3) at No. 1 Watauga (24-3), 1 p.m. (NFHS)
Coach: Laura Barry
Key players: Kate Sears, Fr., Charlotte Torgerson, Jr. Caroline Farthing, Jr., Brelyn Sturgill, Sr.
Outside of an 18-point second quarter, the Pioneers’ defense thoroughly hampered and hindered Reagan on Thursday for a 57-31 win. Watauga allowed just seven points in the second half against a team that scored 50 per game. It was the fifth game in a row and the sixth out of the last seven Watauga has held a team under 40 points. The current stretch came after losing back-to-back games for the only time this season. On the offensive side, Brooke Scheffler scored 18, Sears 14 and Sturgill 13 for the win. Watauga is looking to reach the state quarterfinals for the third time in the program’s history, but the first since 1997.
Barry’s comments: “We got big contributions from across the starting lineup and are really trusting each other and sharing the ball well. Our defense has been a problem for our opponents, and we have been really disruptive. Although we are a small team inside, we are rebounding well. Keys for us moving forward are staying confident and attacking with pace, rebounding on both ends, and team execution and shot selection.”
About Lake Norman:
Coach: McKenzie Graham
Key Players: Kirsten Lewis-Williams, Jr., Aly Wadkovsky, Sr.
Lewis-Williams scored 23 points and Wadkovsky added 16 for the Wildcats in their 63-40 win over Marvin Ridge Thursday. The win was their 15th in a row and they now look for their second state quarterfinal appearance in the program’s history. The first came in 2010. Like Watauga, Lake Norman tends to be defensive minded, allowing 39 points per game. The Wildcats have given up more than 50 just three times. Lewis-Williams leads the team in points per game (15.7), rebounds (9.5) and assists (4). Wadkovsky averages 12 points per game.
Series history: The teams have split regular season games the last two seasons. The teams met in Boone during the Pioneers’ third game back in early December with the home team eking out a 49-46 win in overtime. Watauga rallied from eight down after three quarters to force the extra four minutes. Sears had 13 points and Torgeson 12 for Watauga. Wadkovksy led everyone with 17 points with Lewis-Williams chipping in 12. Offensively, the teams combined for 48 turnovers.
Next up: No. 4 Charlotte Catholic (26-2) or No. 12 North Mecklenburg (24-3)
No. 10 Alexander Central (23-4) at No. 2 Northern Guilford (27-0), 6 p.m.
About Alexander Central:
Coach: Jon Presnell
Key players: Julianna Walter, Sr., Madeleine Jenkins, Sr., Kirstyn Herman, So., Sydney Hayes, Jr., Hallie Jarrett, So., Kayley McDaniel, Jr.
Walter scored the go-ahead free throw down the stretch and the Cougars held their breath through a final run at the basket to defeat East Forsyth 41-40 in Thursday’s second round. Walter has scored 62 points in the two playoff games with 28 on Thursday. Winners of eight out of nine, Alexander Central has allowed 45 points or fewer in seven of those games. For the season, the Cougars have given up just under 40 points a game. The Cougars have reached the state quarterfinals just one other time, that coming in 2012.
Presnell’s comments: “I liked our toughness. We competed with all we had in us. I was proud of Julianna and her big game with 28 points. She was huge in a really big game. For Saturday, we will face a very strong Northern Guilford team. We will need to play to our strengths and not let them dictate the pace. We’re going to need someone else to step up and help Julianna with the scoring load.”
About Northern Guilford:
Coach: Kim Furlough
Key players: Julie Harris, So.
After six straight seasons reaching the round-of-16 or better, which culminated with three straight championship appearances and two 3A titles, the Nighthawks return after suffering early-round exits three years in a row, including a first-round loss to D.H. Conley last year. In running up a perfect record, Northern Guilford has an average margin of victory of 60-33. Only two teams — Hoggard and Southwest Guilford — have been within 10 points at the final buzzer (Hoggard is the closest at 41-33). Harris is the only player that averages double figures in points (10.9), but the team creates scoring opportunities with defense (17 steals per game) and ball movement (13.7 assists per game). In Thursday’s 67-40 win over Providence, the Nighthawks allowed 22 of those points in the second quarter — nine in the second half. Harris scored 22 and Lizzie Gram 16 in the win.
Next up: No. 3 A.C. Reynolds (22-4) or No. 6 Chambers (20-6)
No. 9 West Caldwell (21-9) at R-S Central (26-2), 7 p.m. (NFHS)
About West Caldwell:
Coach: Billy Anderson
Key players: Malek Patterson, JaKobe Hood
The Warriors had little trouble putting away Southwestern Randolph on Thursday, winning in a 78-43 rout. West Caldwell started the season 0-5, going 20-4 since. Eight of the nine losses have come against playoff teams, including one against R-S Central back in December.
The Warriors have allowed 55 or fewer points in half their games. Very much a guard-oriented attack, Hood and Patterson average around 40 points per game combined. Mason Anthony leads the team in rebounds and, according to Coach Anderson, was a big part of Tuesday’s win by his defensive work. West Caldwell is looking to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2010, when they advanced to the state final. The Warriors fell short a year ago in a Sweet 16 loss to Mountain Heritage
Anderson’s comments: “Thursday was the best we have played as a team all year. We were super active on the defensive end and created a bunch of turnovers and transition opportunities. We competed the best we have all year. On the offensive end, I was very pleased with our ball movement and execution. R-S is one of the best teams in the state. They are very big, skilled and well coached. We will have to compete at that same level to be successful Saturday night.”
About R-S Central:
Coach: Greg Wright
Key players: Tyrese Miller, Sr., Zymicah Wilkins, Fr., Braxton Crocker, Sr., Keion Littlejohn, Sr., Junior Montgomery, Sr.
Tied up after three quarters, the top-seeded Hilltoppers finally pulled away and defeated East Surry 57-48 in Thursday’s second round. They routed Owen in the first round 102-48. Winners of the Mountain Foothills 7 2A Conference, R-S Central is led by Miller and Wilkins, each of whom average 15 points a game. All five starters average 10 or more points on a team that averages 78 per game. They have scored 85 or more nine times. A win on Saturday would put R-S Central into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. In recent seasons, the Hilltoppers lost in this round in 2016, 2018 and last year to Shelby.
Series history: At a holiday tournament this season at Freedom, R-S Central opened up a 24-9 lead after one quarter and cruised to a 76-55 win over the Warriors. Miller had 21 points, Williams and Montgomery 18 apiece for a team that shot 48 percent from the floor and had 20 assists. Hood and Williams had 40 of the 55 points for West Caldwell and 21 turnovers. R-S Central also defeated the Warriors 75-73 back in 2014.
Next up: No. 5 Salisbury (20-4) or No. 4 North Surry (21-4)
No. 17 North Iredell (19-8) at No. 8 West Charlotte (18-9), 6 p.m. (NFHS)
About North Iredell:
Coach: Jeff LeVan
Key players: Jackson Hawkins, Sr. John Jackson, Sr. Beckham Tharpe, Jr.
North Iredell missed a chance to put the game away in regulation before Hickory drilled a 3-pointer to tie it and force overtime. However, the Raiders outscored the Red Tornadoes 10-5 in the extra period and won it 58-53. In the victory, Jackson had 17 points, Hawkins 15 and Tharpe 12.
Both wins for North Iredell in the playoffs have come in overtime, including a 59-56 win over Dudley in Round 1. Three of the Raiders’ last six games have extended into overtime with wins in all three. Holding to the theme of close games, the last four losses have been by a combined margin of eight points. All eight losses have come against playoff teams. Three seasons into his tenure, Coach LeVan has the Raiders on the doorstep of the program’s first state quarterfinal appearance. Over the three seasons prior to his arrival in 2019, North Iredell was 14-60.
LeVan’s comments: “We are very proud and fortunate to be playing in Saturday’s game. Our guys have shown toughness and a no-quit attitude. Thursday’s game was one of the best games of the year and it was a shame we could not have met later in the tournament.
“For us to continue this run we have to stay focused on defense. That has been our calling card. We have been a pretty good defensive team all year, playing a lot of man-to-man and mixing in some zone lately has really made us a complete team. Offensively, we like to get out in transition and run when it’s there. If not, we will grind it out and try to get the shot we want not what the other team is willing to give us. Of course, there is the concern of playing three games this week; that always scares me. Plus, playing on Saturday when the kids are not in school and not in a routine. But, as my boys have told me before “Coach, we are not 60, we are 17 and 18 years old. We will be fine.”
About West Charlotte:
Key players: Landon King, Sr., Chancellor Morrow, Sr., Donovan Raymond, Jr.
After losing three of four heading into the postseason, the Lions have had little trouble in the first two rounds, routing Pisgah 83-41 and Ledford 75-55. The Lions shot 58 percent overall, 60 percent on 3-pointers Thursday, with King scoring 21 points and Morrow 17. A win on Saturday will put West Charlotte into the quarterfinals for the first time since finishing as the state runner-up in 2019.
Next up: No. 5 Ben E. Smith (24-5) or No. 20 North Lincoln (17-10)
No. 20 North Lincoln (17-10) at No. 5 Ben E. Smith (24-5), 3:30 p.m. (NFHS)
About North Lincoln:
Coach: Dennis Frye
Key players: Jack Waggoner, Sr., Connor Carson, Jr., Jake Dedmon, Sr., Reed King, Jr., Kellen. Karr, Fr.
Down as many as 13, the Knights stormed back on the road to tie the game at 41-all after three quarters and win 66-52 at Freedom. It was the second double-digit win on the road in the playoffs after a 68-51 win at Asheboro on Tuesday. All 10 losses have come against playoff teams. Waggoner leads the Knights with an average of 14 points per game. Five different players average double figures in scoring with Karr taking down seven rebounds per contest. After going 38-105 from the 2013-14 season through 2018-19, the Knights will have a shot at their second quarterfinal appearance in a row after reaching the 2A West final last season.
Frye’s comments: “Our guys never stopped playing even when they were down 13. It was a super physical game that challenged them to be mentally and physically tougher in the second half. They kept battling and stuck to the game plan. We made adjustments on defense, and it allowed us to force them into bad shots creating more rebound opportunities for us.
“Ben L. Smith will be another big test for us. I expect a physical brand of basketball. Our kids are ready for it. If we stick to our plan, we will be competitive and have a shot at earning another win.”
About Ben L. Smith:
Coach: Derrick Partee
Key players: Markquan Gilbert, Jr., Richard Good, So.
The Golden Eagles have cruised through the first two rounds to extend their current win streak to 10 straight. Smith routed West Henderson 88-59 in the first round and put away Concord 75-64 on Thursday. Gilbert leads Smith with 14 points per game, while Good averages nearly a double-double at 11.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. A win on Saturday puts Smith into the state quarterfinals for the third time since 2018.
Next up: No. 8 West Charlotte (18-9) or No. 17 North Iredell (19-8)
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