Northwestern races away from Concord to reach Moody tournament championship game

bmccormick@heraldonline.comDecember 28, 2012 

— Concord took its first and only lead against Northwestern on Friday in boys basketball action with two minutes left in the third quarter. But after Connor Burchfield’s layup gave the Spiders a one-point lead in the Lindberg Moody Holiday Tournament semifinal, Northwestern ripped off a 10 straight points to close the quarter, and outscored Concord by 21 over the last 10 minutes of the game to advance to Saturday night’s 8 p.m. final against Irmo with a 71-51 win.

“We definitely have some ‘spurtability,’ ” said Northwestern coach Mike Gossett, perhaps coining a new word, “if we can just take care of those lulls we keep getting into. But I’m proud of them; they fought hard, they did good things, we ran the floor, we rebounded, we played awesome defense.”

A barely visible streak much of the night, Mustafia Love led Northwestern with 18 points, one of four Trojans in double digits. Mason Rudolph added 15 and Rontavious McClure 13, while LaThomas Long chipped in 10. Darren Black led Concord, last season’s tournament champions, with 20 points but the Spiders didn’t have the wheels to keep pace with the event hosts.

“We answered the run and got the lead and I thought we’d be fine,” Concord coach Scott Brewer said afterward. “We shot ourselves in the foot with some turnovers that led to run-outs.

“Next thing you know, bam! It was back up to 10 quick, and we didn’t answer that the way we’re supposed to.”

Much of Friday night’s game looked like a weeknight run at the local church with a relentless pace befitting of a bunch of teenagers. That break-neck speed seemed to suit the Trojans, who broke out to an 8-0 lead that grew to 15-4 after threes by McClure and Will Chitwood.

“We like to get out on fast breaks, you know, showtime,” said McClure, grinning.

The Trojans’ lead grew in the second quarter, and despite Burchfield’s 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, Northwestern led comfortably 35-22. Concord, with just one departure from last year’s 28-3 team that made the state semifinals in North Carolina, roared out of the locker room with a 20-6 run that gave them their one lead in the game. Black was the catalyst, hitting a 3-pointer before Greg Childress banged in another one. A Black steal and layup got the Spiders within three before Burchfield’s deuce put the visitors in front.

But the advantage lasted barely 10 seconds. McClure answered immediately at the other end with a bucket in the lane, innocuously spurring the Trojans’ eruption.

“We had to bring our defensive intensity back,” he said. “The first half we felt like we let down on the defensive end. We had to execute on the defensive end and our offensive would open up like it did.”

The Spiders couldn’t stop Northwestern inside, and that’s where Gossett’s team intuitively went for offense when it was dunking run-outs. Manzi Hill and Rudolph converted in the paint, before JaReg Feely’s basket capped a 10-0 run in the last two minutes of the third quarter. With a 51-42 lead heading into the fourth, the home team didn’t relent, out-pacing Concord 20-9 in the final eight minutes to clinch a Saturday night final against the state’s top-ranked team, Irmo.

Somewhat prophetically, Irmo star Justin McKie and McClure called an Irmo/Northwestern final on Twitter earlier in the week. The two are AAU teammates and should make for a mouthwatering matchup on Saturday.

“We’re about to go out there and compete against each other,” said McClure. “I feel like we’re up there with the No. 1 team in the state. People underestimate us because we’re Northwestern. It’s gonna be a good challenge for us.”

Northwestern 71, Concord 51


Northwestern: Rontavious McClure 13, Mason Rudolph 15, LaThomas Long 10, Mustafia Love 18, Will Chitwood 6, JaReg Feely 2, Clenzo Ross 2, Manzi Hill 5; Concord: Darren Black 20, Gregory Childress 7, Connor Burchfield 13, Keenan Black 2, Jerry Burk 6, Reid Aube 3.

3-point goals: Northwestern 3 (Chitwood 2, McClure); Concord 4 (Black 2, Childress, Burchfield)

Team fouls: Northwestern 15; Concord 19

Foul shots: Northwestern 12-22; Concord 11-14

Fouled out: Concord- Aube.

Bret McCormick 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T

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