By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor
Monday, February 25, 2013 —
In the past four seasons of the current realignment of schools that ends this academic year, Albemarle has faced off with North Rowan in three of the past four seasons in the finals of the Yadkin Valley Conference postseason tournament, including Friday’s finals at East Montgomery.
North Rowan 73
The Bulldogs took the floor at East Montgomery High School on Friday night to take on a North Rowan squad that had won their last 15 games in a row and were ranked No. 3 in the latest 1A state poll at NCPreps.com.
Albemarle, ranked No. 7 in that same poll, had only lost two games this season, both to the Cavaliers by deficits of 17 and 30, respectively.
An emotional first half gave way to a huge second-half run that lifted North Rowan to a 73-41 win and a sweep of the regular-season and tournament championships.
Deon Christian led the Bulldogs (20-3) with 11 points.
For North Rowan (24-3), Jalen Sanders came off the bench to lead three Cavs in double figures with 18 points. Oshon West and Michael Connor added 14 points each for North Rowan.
A tumultuous first quarter saw 17 fouls called between the two teams, nine on the top-seeded Cavaliers including technical fouls on West and head coach Andrew Mitchell. Andre Ridenhour hit 3-of-6 free throws after West was called for both a personal foul and the technical foul.
After the Cavaliers took a 5-0 lead, Terrace Ellis came up with a huge blocked shot that gave the Bulldogs some momentum. Albemarle later tied the game 6-6 on a Trey Nivens free throw at the 2:31 mark of the period before a Connor three-pointer capped off a 6-0 North Rowan run over the next minute of the opening period.
North Rowan built a 24-10 lead in the second quarter but the Bulldogs responded and narrowed the gap to nine points on a Christian bucket with 1:17 left in the half. At halftime, the lead for North Rowan stayed at nine points as the Bulldogs hit 8-of-17 from the field (47.1 percent) and the Cavaliers were 10-of-27 (37 percent).
The Bulldogs started the third quarter strong and kept pace with North Rowan, pulling to within seven points. Ellis was fouled shooting a three-pointer and knocked down all three shots to pull Albemarle to a 32-25 deficit with 4:27 left in the third.
North Rowan pushed the lead to 18 points in the third and started a run to pull away from the Bulldogs after a Rashaad Baldwin bucket with 1:03 on the clock. The Cavaliers scored the next 21 points in a row into the fourth quarter as Albemarle went scoreless for well over seven minutes.
Regarding how his team handled their emotions of the game, Albemarle head coach Al Andrew said that it was a great atmosphere and games like Friday are “what you play for.”
“Our gameplan was to try to be more deliberate and smart. We didn’t handle their press well, but for the most part, we hung in there. [North Rowan] just has so many weapons; they can score on you so many different ways. We struggled to score.”
Albemarle will host a playoff game on Monday night at 7 p.m.
“Everyone is now 0-0 and hopefully we will be ready to play,” Andrew said.
Editor’s Note: Albemarle’s opponent on Monday night was not announced as of press time for this edition of the paper. Playoff information will be posted on our website and on Facebook and Twitter as soon as the info is made available.
A 8 7 20 6 41
NR 12 14 24 23 73
A – Ellis 5, Deon Christian 11, Blanton 2, Williams 2, Dumas 3, Currie 2, Crowder 3, Nivens 1, Ridenhour 5, Autry 5.
NR – Bates 9, Oshon West 14, Michael Connor 14, Bowman 3, Walker 3, Jalen Sanders 18, Archie 7, B. Nelson 3, D. Nelson 2.
North Moore 45
In the semifinals of the YVC tournament on Thursday, the Bulldogs opened on a 7-0 run and cruised into the finals of the Yadkin Valley Conference tournament 78-45 over North Moore.
Bryan Blanton led four in double figures for Albemarle with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Lee Autry added 11 points and five rebounds, while Andre Ridenhour had 10 points and a team-high seven boards and T’Kyle Williams scored 10 points of 4-of-6 shooting.
Autry scored five of the Bulldogs’ first seven points to open the game as Albemarle hit 8-of-17 from the field in the opening quarter and limited the Mustangs (14-11) to 2-of-11 shooting.
North Moore pulled to within eight points in the second but Albemarle extended the lead back to double digits for the rest of the game, taking a 34-18 halftime lead.
Albemarle opened the third period on a 11-1 run to put the game out of reach. and Bulldog head coach Al Andrew subbed in liberally throughout the remainder of the second half.
NM 5 13 13 14 45
A 17 17 22 22 78
NM – Quashan Davis 12, Landon Auman 10, Bullard 5, Spivey 6, Chisholm 7, Wall 3, Wallace 1, Lambert 1.
A – Bryan Blanton 14, Lee Autry 11, Andre Ridenhour 10, T’Kyle Williams 10, Crowder 8, Christian 8, Ellis 7, S. Baldwin 4, R. Baldwin 3, Nivens 2, Sellers 1.