Basketball Notebook for January 27

Sun Valley boys take conference lead over Warriors

A little leadership goes a long way. Just ask Sun Valley boys basketball coach Keith Mason.

In the third quarter of the Spartans’ Jan. 24 game against Weddington, with first place in the Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference on the line, a fan knocked over the Sun Valley water jug, spilling its contents onto the court and delaying the game by more than 20 minutes.

The Spartans, who were clawing their way back after Weddington took control of the game early, seemed to have momentum on their side, and senior guard Jalen Witherspoon was determined not to squander it – water break, or otherwise.

“Jalen had the five guys that were out there in a huddle, getting on them and making sure they knew what they were doing,” Mason said. “That’s senior leadership.”

In the end, the Spartans erased a 12-point deficit with an 18-0 run and won the game, 69-62, capped by a pair of steals from Jay Rowell. Senior guard Shaun Stewart had 22 points, followed by Witherspoon’s 18.

It was the Spartans’ second consecutive road win after downing Anson, 88-69, on Jan. 20. The victory improved the Spartans’ record to 15-4 and gave them sole possession of first place with a 6-0 mark.

The Spartans are slated to wrap up their four-game road swing with trips to Marvin Ridge (Friday, Jan. 27) and Parkwood (Tuesday, Jan. 31).

Cuthbertson stays ‘on top’

Holding a comfortable, 20-plus point lead in the fourth quarter of the Cuthbertson boys’ game against Union Academy on Jan. 20, Cavs coach Mike Helms called a timeout

On the previous two possessions, the Cavs were slow to rotate defensively, and the Cardinal guards found an open man in the lane and converted two easy buckets.

Regardless of the score, Helms said, the Cavs’ lapses were unacceptable. And he let his players know it in a tone that sounded more like they were the ones facing a double digit deficit.

“We were challenging them to stay on top, and when we say ‘on top,’ we mean we’re trying to guard a guy by halfcourt,” Helms explained. “Don’t play the scoreboard; play the game. We want to play the game the right way. When I took the time out, I was just reaffirming that, ‘Hey, no matter what, we’ve got to be on top and play the game the same way.’

“It wasn’t about building a lead; it’s about playing the right way, all the time.”

The Cavs won, 94-56. Cuthbertson was led by Shelton Mitchell’s 26 points but also received a boost from Cornelius Stradford’s season-high 22 points.

But perhaps more important was the performance of Isiah Cureton and Lucius McMillon, a set of forwards charged with defending Union Academy star Kyle Buffkin, a 6-foot-8 senior who managed 17 points and 11 rebounds but was stifled throughout the game by the pair’s stiff defensive pressure.

“Both of those kids are undersized height-wise to be guarding him, but … they’ve got long arms, and I think they can cause some problems,” Helms said. “They play bigger than their size.”

The Cavs downed North Stanly, 106-42, on Jan. 24. They travel to Monroe on Friday.

Maverick girls stay in hunt

The Marvin Ridge girls earned a much-needed win on Jan. 24, edging Parkwood, 56-52. Not only did the win snap a three-game losing streak, it improved the Mavs’ Southern Carolina 3A/4A record to 2-4 with just four games to go. Marvin Ridge is 11-7 overall.

“We needed one bad,” said coach Dwight Miller. “That was a great win. Parkwood is a rivalry for us. The girls were up for the game and really looking forward to playing against them.”

Senior forward Jordan Henry scored 22 points, followed by Rachel Walker’s 14.

“I think we’re bringing it together right now,” said Miller. “We’re trying to keep everybody positive, keep them focused and working hard.”

Next up is a Friday rematch with Sun Valley, which beat the Mavs by 17 points on Jan. 10.

Weddington girls becoming factor

Early in the season, it appeared as though the Weddington girls would make a run at a Southern Carolina 3A/4A title. The Warriors started the season 7-3, which included two losses to Charlotte power Ardrey Kell. But the Warriors followed their hot start by dropping five of their next six games.

But entering the final stretch of the season, the Warriors appear to have turned a corner and have won back-to-back league games against Parkwood (73-62 on Jan. 20) and Sun Valley (54-38 on Jan. 24). With four games remaining, the Warriors are 10-8 and 2-4 in league play.

“I felt like early on, we got some big wins,” said Weddington coach Ryun Cook. “Then we hit a wall where teams kind of figured us out a little bit. We’ve had to adjust, and I think we’re now (making) adjustments, and I think we’re improving.”

Much of the Warriors’ mid-season growing pains were a result of a roster filled with first-year varsity players, but it seems the team is starting to gel at the right time.

“We’re doing better,” freshman Stephanie Watts said. “We’re getting our plays together, and we’re starting to feel more comfortable with each other playing and learning how each other plays. … We’re getting there.”

The Warriors are slated to host Anson on Friday before visiting Porter Ridge on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Warriors look to regroup

After his team’s heartbreaking 69-62 loss to Sun Valley on Jan. 24, Weddington boys coach Gary Ellington stood in the empty hallway outside his team’s locker room and stared at the scorebook. He didn’t have to search long for the difference in his team’s loss to the Spartans.

Eighteen second-half turnovers.

“Against a team like Sun Valley, as good as they are, you can’t have that,” Ellington said. “You can’t do that and beat them – you’ve got to play almost perfect to beat them. They’re just that good.”

The loss dropped the Warriors to 13-6 on the year and 5-1 in Southern Carolina 3A/4A play, good for second behind Sun Valley.

Bennett Rutherford, Justyn McDonald and Brandon Watts each scored 12 points for the Warriors, who also received a boost from 6-foot-6 Luke Peters, who scored nine points and collected several rebounds.

“He played great,” said Ellington. “He’s been a starter for us off and on, and when he plays hard, he’d definitely a factor and we need him out there.”

The Warriors host Anson on Friday. Now, said Ellington, the Warriors need to put the disappointing loss to Sun Valley behind them.

“That’s a worry, for sure,” Ellington said. “I was just telling them it’s not the end of the world. In the big picture, it’s just one game and we definitely have to be ready for Anson on Friday. If we hang our heads too much about this game, we’ll drop that one on Friday. We’ve just got to get past it.”

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