The Mallard Creek boys basketball team had one focus heading into Tuesday's game: stop North Mecklenburg guard Shivaughn Wiggins. The Mavericks may not have stopped him - Wiggins scored 23 points - but they slowed him down enough to upset the Vikings 52-47.
"It's huge," Mallard Creek coach David Rutledge said about the win. The Mavericks lost to North Meck by 22 in their first meeting this season. "That's a heck of a team. They've got, in my opinion, the best coach in the conference. He also has the best player not on our team out there (Wiggins)."
The Mavericks' Nick Purefoy had the defensive assignment on Wiggins most of the night, but everyone on the court had an eye on the Vikings' guard on defense.
Mallard Creek (14-5, 8-3 I-Meck) held North Meck (17-4, 8-3) scoreless for the first 3 minutes and 30 seconds of the game. North Meck's offense finally got moving and went on a 7-2 run, taking a 9-8 late lead late in the quarter. Mallard Creek answered and regained the lead with a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer by Jamal White that gave the Mavericks an 11-9 lead.
North Meck, ranked No. 5 in the Observer Sweet 16, tried to fight back in the third quarter, getting as close as two points before the Mavericks pulled away again and led 38-32.
With less than three minutes left in the game, North Meck trailed by only three, but missed two free throws and Wiggins missed a 3-point attempt. Off the rebound, Mallard Creek's Bradley Robinson sprinted down the court for a layup to give the Mavericks a 48-43 lead.
Robinson led the Mavericks in the second half, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the final two quarters.
"I'm just trying to help the team out as a senior," Robinson said.
With the win, the Mavericks move into a tie for second place in the I-Meck Conference. Mallard Creek plays Hopewell on Friday and conference-leading West Charlotte next Tuesday.
"They are turning around the culture at Mallard Creek," Rutledge said of his players. "Not one of them has a priority over winning. That's all they care about."