The North Surry boys basketball team knew it had the talent to compete with the 2A powerhouses, but the Greyhounds announced their status as serious competitors to the enitre state with a victory against No. 1 North Rowan.
The Cavaliers came into the contest as the top-ranked team in the state 2A poll by ncpreps.com, but the Greyhounds dominated three of the four quarters and ran away from the Cavaliers at the end in a 74-57 win.
“This group is the best that I’ve had at really liking each other and playing for each other,” North Surry coach Kevin King said. “In the summer, and last year, we’ve played teams that were better than us, and we knew tonight if we could run our offense and get stops on defense, we could play with anyone.”
The Greyhounds (4-1) jumped out to a 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, but North Rowan (5-1) made a sizable run heading into halftime.
The Cavaliers scored 12 of the final 16 points in the second quarter and found some room in the paint on penetrating drives and smooth offensive execution. North Rowan held a 30-29 lead at the half.
However, the Greyhounds refused to let the Cavaliers’ run deter their confidence. North Surry’s first four baskets of the second half were all three-pointers. Two came from Mason Hawks, one from Kendall Tucker and another from Carter Phillips as North Surry opened a 45-36 lead.
Fittingly enough, those three Greyhounds were the catalysts on offense for North Surry throughout the evening. Hawks led the way with 23 points and Tucker followed him with 20, but Phillips produced an all-around game and near triple-double with 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
“Before the game, we would have took that score at halftime. And then in the second half, we made some shots and we played with confidence once we took the lead,” King said of his team’s performance early in the third period.
The North Surry coach also had an effective gameplan for his team’s defense during the second half.
He opened the contest in an old-fashioned man-to-man, but the Greyhounds came out of halftime in a “morphed” 1-2-2 zone. It took some time for North Surry to get its rotations precise, but eventually the defense became a thorn in the Cavaliers’ side by locking down the paint and limiting the ball movement at the top of the key.
“We knew we were going to play it at some point,” King said. “I didn’t want to play (the zone) in the first half, because I didn’t want to give them a chance at halftime to go in and talk about it and adjust.”
After Phillips’ three made it 45-36, North Rowan never trimmed the Greyhounds’ lead to less than six points. A buzzer-beating three from Hawks at the end of the third quarter gave North Surry all of the momentum and a 53-43 lead.
The Greyhounds kept their foot on the pedal in the fourth quarter and easily handled North Rowan’s pressure and attempts at climbing back into the contest. A technical foul on North Rowan’s coach helped the Hounds ice the game away with four consecutive free throws from Hawks and Tucker.
Despite fouling out, Coach King was impressed with the play from center Luke Cartwright, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. His ability to finish around the rim helped open up driving lanes and shooting space for North Surry’s talented trio in the backcourt.
The Greyhounds will look to keep this momentum rolling on Tuesday with a home game against Northwest Guilford, then they will look to avenger their only loss of the season to Mount Airy on Friday, Dec. 18.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16