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North Stanly faces tall task in fourth-round playoff matchup at Bishop McGuinness

Tuesday’s fourth-round playoff road matchup for the North Stanly men’s basketball team pits the Comets against a sizable Bishop McGuinness Villains squad, both in height as well as the host squad’s success this season.

Blazing a Trail

Comets senior guard Bryson Childress continued to move up the ranks statewide in terms of career points per game after scoring 32 in North’s win Saturday at Lincoln Charter. He now sits at 2,164 points, which puts him at 23rd overall, 18 points behind Kinston’s Craig Dawson.

Childress also has approached high marks in terms of 3-pointers made. Entering the playoffs, he had knocked down 108 treys this season. That is more than former North standout Britt Jernigan made in the team’s run to the finals in 1998. Jernigan, who is tied for eighth all-time in the NCHSAA record book with 275 career 3-pointers made, made 100 his final season when the Comets finished as state runner-up.

Defensively, the Comets accomplished something few teams had been able to do for four seasons. Lincoln Charter senior guard Jackson Gabriel had passed Akeem Richards from Southern Lee as the all-time NCHSAA leader in made threes with 451 on Feb. 19. However, the Comets limited him to three makes from behind the 3-point arc and 15 points in Saturday’s win.

Coach Paul Childress and the Comets have also benefited from the play of two other seniors this season. North has two other players averaging double digits in points per game entering the playoffs: senior guard Carson Lowder (12.5 points per game) and center Nalik Veasley, who averages a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The No. 21-seed Comets are the second-lowest seed still alive in the state playoffs regardless of classification; only the 27th-seeded Roxboro Community Bulldogs in the 1A Eastern Region has a lower seed.

Playing the Villain

Bishop McGuiness has a veteran head coach in Josh Thompson, who has coached high school ball for 21 seasons, including 16 at Bishop. Having formerly coached at UNC-Greensboro, Bartlett-Yancey and Oak Ridge Academy, Thompson passed the 200-win plateau in 2016 and coached the Villains to a 31-2 mark and the 1A state title in 2008-09.

This season, Bishop was 11-3 in non-conference play including road wins against teams like the Community School of Davidson, who also has reached the Elite Eight as the No. 2-seed and faces No. 3 North Rowan on Tuesday. The Villains also posted a 46-43 win over the No. 5 seed in the Western Region, the Starmount Rams, whom North Stanly beat in overtime in the second round.

Playing in a Northwest Conference which included the West’s top seed, the Phoenix of Winston-Salem Prep, and No. 17-seeded East Surry, Bishop finished 6-4 in conference play, tying the Cardinals for second place.

The Phoenix beat the Villains three times this season by margins of 13 and 11 in the regular season and a 26 points loss in the NWC tournament title game, 67-41. On Saturday, however, the Villains went on the road to W-S Prep and won 56-53. It was Bishop’s first win over Prep since the state-title season of 2009.

Thompson said he feels the Northwest Conference “is one of the top 1A leagues” in the state, adding “fortunately we were able to get past (Winston-Salem Prep) in the sectional championship last weekend behind strong play from our whole team. It was a wonderful team win for us against a strong team.”

Bishop is led offensive by two players averaging double figures in points per game: 6-foot-6 senior guard Cameron Caroway (17 points per game) and 6-1 junior guard Jake Ledbetter (14 ppg).

The Villains have more size in the front court as well in 6-7 senior center Ty Cressman, who averages seven rebounds per game, as well as 6-3 junior Andrew Budzinski, who pulls down eight boards per contest.

Regarding North Stanly, Thompson said “we will have our hands full on Tuesday. (North) has a terrific team who is well coached and led by fantastic point guard in (Bryson) Childress.”

Coach Childress said the Villains are good, which is “what you would expect from that league. (They have) some good players, tough kids, are well-coached and run their system well. It will be a tough one; I hope we can make it competitive and get to the fourth quarter close enough to see what happens in the end.”

Tuesday’s game tips off at 7 p.m. at Bishop McGuinness.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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