SHELBY — There’s not a whole lot that the North Surry boys’ basketball team didn’t accomplish in a memorable 2015-16 season.
Western Piedmont 2-A Conference champions? Check. Outright champions? Check. How about a 20-win season? They took care of that last week.
Conference tournament champions? Check that one off too. A statewide top-10 ranking? The Greyhounds came into Saturday night ranked No. 8 in the latest MaxPreps.com rankings, and a 67-51 road loss to No. 6 Shelby isn’t going to change that very much.
The bad news is that the Hounds lost their second-round playoff game to the Golden Lions, ending the careers of North Surry seniors Luke Mauldin, Hunter Badgett, Brady Watts, Andrew Cave and Austin Moxley. The good news is that the Hounds and their fans have an outstanding 21-7 season to remember, and the even better news is that the team’s top five leading scorers and top four rebounders return for next season, which the Hounds are likely to begin as one of the state’s top-ranked 2-A teams.
North Surry came into Saturday night’s game facing a considerable challenge. When the state playoff brackets were first drawn up, this matchup was anticipated, and the preliminary brackets assigned the Hounds a higher seed than Shelby (24-5). However, they were later adjusted, and the Golden Lions’ slate for playoff purposes gave them the higher seed and the right to host the game if the two teams met.
Shelby entered the game with a perfect 12-0 record on its homecourt. North Surry is no slouch on the road, and entered 9-1 away from the Ron King Gymnasium, and they kept the game in doubt for three quarters before the Golden Lions finally put it away.
The hosts led for virtually the entire way, but the Hounds nipped at their heels throughout the first half, trailing 15-12 after a quarter and 29-25 at intermission. However, this wasn’t where coach Kevin King thought his team needed to be at that point.
“Their quickness makes it very difficult to play catch-up against them,” he said. “We felt like we had to get our offense going early and play from ahead, and we weren’t able to do that. We really needed to have a good shooting night, and we didn’t.”
The Golden Lions went up by six on their first possession of the third quarter and held the advantage at six to eight points well into the final period, when they went into a four-corners delay game and forced North Surry to foul. Shelby got 17 of its second-half points from the free-throw line.
“Up until the the point when they went into a spread, I thought we had done about as good a job defensively as we could do against them,” King said. “They made their free throws and we just couldn’t make shots.”
Mason Hawks led the Hounds, who converted just seven of 23 from behind the 3-point arc on the night, with 20 points. Carter Phillips added eight. Justin Boyd led the Golden Lions with 16.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.