Hopewell and Lake Norman showed why they are ranked first and second in the Observer's Sweet 16 by winning their first I-Meck games of the season Friday night.
Lake Norman (6-0, 1-0) beat the No. 8 North Mecklenburg Vikings (7-1, 0-1) 70-63 in a game that came down to the last two minutes. The Vikings had the ball down by three with less than a minute to play when Lake Norman guard Kevin Canevari intercepted a pass and ran down the court for a lay-up.
North Mecklenburg's Bernard Sullivan dominated inside with 29 points and 11 rebounds, while Lake Norman's post player Paul Larsen had to sit out much of the second half after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter.
Hopewell senior Jordan Downing scored 31 points to help the Titans beat West Charlotte 75-66 in the teams' I-Meck 4A opener.
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Downing scored 23 points during the second half, including 13 during the fourth quarter.
After the Titans (9-0, 1-0) and Sweet 16 No.4 Lions (6-2, 0-1) traded leads for most of the first 20 minutes, Downing began to assert himself. With score tied at 36, Downing hit two jumpers and a deep 3-pointer during a 9-3 run.
Then with Hopewell ahead 55-48 and five minutes left, Downing scored his team's next nine points.
The Titans held West Charlotte star J.T. Terrell, who was averaging more than 30 points per game, to a season-low 15.
While Downing dominated the perimeter, DeMon Brooks was strong inside with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
"All we heard this season was West Charlotte this and West Charlotte that," Downing said, who scored his 1,000th point during the first quarter. "We took it personally, that people weren't talking about us. I think we wanted to show everyone how good we can be."