The best conference in NC HS basketball held its semifinal matchups tonight at Lake Norman High School. The games certainly did not disappoint, as Lake Norman held on to defeat Vance and West Charlotte pulled the upset over #1 Hopewell behind a lights-out performance by J.T. Terrell.
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First things first: J.T. Terrell is an amazing scorer.
Terrell's first two three point attempts rimmed out and he did not get his first two pointer to drop either. However, he calmly grabbed the rebound and hit the next one as he fell to the floor. After that, it was his night.
A little later in the first quarter, Terrell skyed above the competition and threw down a nasty one handed put-back dunk that drew plenty of oos and ahhs from the crowd. For the rest of the half JT took incredibly difficult shots, but made them without any trouble. With his freakish 6'9" wingspan, he was able to quickly step back and create just enough space to splash shot after shot in his opponent's face. In this case it was usually Hopewell's star Jordan Downing, who is heading to Davidson next year to play for the Wildcats. The Lions went to the locker room with an eight point lead over Hopewell. Terrell had 25 in the half.
The third quarter was a little different. West Charlotte looked content with the lead and decided to stall, which was a questionable decision for a team that relies solely on run-and-gun basketball and does not play a whole lot of defense. Terrell only took a couple shots in the quarter and the lead was down to four going into the fourth.
The fourth quarter certainly did not disappoint. Terrell and Downing went back and forth for much of the quarter, each getting in the other's ear after they scored the next basket. The Lions' lead slipped away with some careless turnovers and Hopewell found themselves up three with about two minutes left in the game. However, JT Terrell had come too far to let his team lose at this point. He drained another three from the corner to tie the game on a well designed in-bounds play. After Downing made a contested mid-range jumper, Terrell answered again as he snaked his way through the defense and scooped one in at the rim. With under 30 seconds left to play, West Charlotte finally got a stop and held the ball for the final possession. JTT started on the right wing, stepped back and shot up a three while clearly getting hit on the arms by Downing. The shot narrowly missed, but Terrell calmly walked to the line and sank all three free throws with three seconds left. Downing had a chance to tie it, but his runner clanked off the back rim and sent Terrell off to the crowd, where he gave his usual salute and was mobbed by a few WC fans.
On the night, Downing had an impressive 29 points and looks to be a very solid commit for Davidson. But it was Terrell's performance that stole the show: 45 points on 14 of 27 shooting (7-13 from three, 10-11 from the FT line).
Look out for the video coming soon, as HoopMixTape.com was in the house.
Rankin, Vance fall short against Lake Norman
Lake Norman, the number two seed in the conference, got off to a fast start against a guard heavy Vance team. Vance's 3-2 zone fell apart early as LN drained four out of five three-pointers to get off to a 12-0 lead. For the rest of the game, Vance was fighting hard to break even. Junior star guard Marquis Rankin, who is a Wake Forest target, did his best to keep them afloat by scoring 11 in the opening quarter, including two threes. Foul trouble plagued him in the second quarter, but sophmore Braxton Ogbueze converted an and-one intentional foul, which helped cut into the lead significantly by halftime.
The second half was highly competive. Vance clawed their way back and took the lead, behind another strong quarter from Rankin. Unfortunately, the zebras decided to ruin the game with over five minutes left. LN guard Reggie Price drove down the lane, tripped and a foul was called on Rankin, who had stepped out of the way completely. That was Rankin's fifth foul and pretty much the end of the game. Ogbueze did his best to run the team, but the highly touted sophomore did not have enough. Lake Norman got clutch shots and key contributions from Matt Eller (26), Kevin Canevari (16) and Price (16) after their star, Paul Larsen, fouled out as well. Rankin ended up with 19 and Ogbueze added 14.
After a slow start to the season and a battle with multiple injuries, it seems that Marquis Rankin has turned the corner. His jumpshot looks much smoother from the last time we saw him play, as he connected on a few deep balls and a couple mid-range jumpers as well. Rankin is very strong and quick, which helps him get into the lane at will. While he failed to finish on a couple of his smooth drives to the basket, there is no question that Rankin is a high-major player that you will see in an ACC uniform in a couple years. The major question is what color that ACC uniform will be.
The I-Meck 5A Conference champions will be crowned Friday Night at Lake Norman High School and will go to the winner of West Charlotte vs. Lake Norman.