A junior varsity call-up helped Mooresville High in a big way at the Hardwood Classic.
Justin Jones, a 5-6 reserve point guard, converted his varsity promotion into three second-half steals in the Blue Devils' (4-3) 57-47 win against Ardrey Kell Tuesday at Bojangles' Coliseum.
That spark helped Mooresville, ranked sixth in the Sweet 16, on a 12-2 run over the final four minutes and into the semifinals against Davidson Day, a winner against First Assembly.
"He was the difference, I thought," Mooresville coach Michael Micklow said. "He gave us some energy off the bench, had a big steal for a layup and got another big steal near the end jumping into the passing lane. He fueled other guys to step up like Dre Howell and Shawn (Lester). They stepped up with him."
Davidson Day rolled past First Assembly 73-49 in the nightcap, breaking open a close game with a 22-10 second quarter to cruise with ease. Davidson Day's Rashum Davis led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting and Phillip Anglade added 14 for the Patriots. Andrew Wheet paced First Assembly with 11 points.
Ardrey Kell (3-8) gave Mooresville all it could handle until the Blue Devils' pressure defense broke open a tight game. Eight of the Blue Devils' 12 steals came in the second half and Lester took advantage, scoring half of his game-high 14 points in the fourth quarter, including consecutive baskets to break a 45-45 deadlock with four minutes left. Howell matched Lester with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and six rebounds.
"The difference was Shawn Lester," Ardrey Kell coach Mike Craft said. "It was 45-all and he gets five straight points. He goes in and makes an acrobatic layup and hits a three (point shot) and we never could recover."
Ardrey Kell rolled to a 13-6 lead in the first quarter, but the Blue Devils recovered in the second to trail 24-22 at recess. Michael Barclift's eight first-half points powered Ardrey Kell's attack, which connected on 9-of-21 shots (42.9 percent). Raphael Montgomery and Howell scored eight points each for Mooresville, which made good on 9-of-20 attempts. With the game on the line, however, the Blue Devils turned up the defensive pressure to stymie the Knights, who were led by Tate Small's 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting and eight boards.
"That's what we keep preaching - our defense is going to get points for us," Micklow said. "When we step in the passing lanes and make them work, we do good things.
"In the first half, we gave up too many second-chance points, and I don't like giving up easy points. The defense did a great job in the fourth quarter."