When North Mecklenburg traveled to Mooresville to play Lake Norman in their first conference game of the year, the Vikings came up short, losing 70-63 to the Wildcats in a game that came down to the last two minutes.
The Vikings, ranked 12th in the Observer Sweet 16 poll, will try to better execute their game plan in order to win the rematch.
North Mecklenburg has struggled in the I-Meck so far this season, but this game has a lot of significance for the Vikings as they try to stay in the playoff hunt. The conference only receives four automatic bids to the 4A state playoffs, so unless the Vikings can make a quick turnaround they might have to fight for a wild-card bid.
Never miss a local story.
Lake Norman (11-1, 3-1 I-Meck through Jan. 14) has continued to play solidly since they last saw the Vikings, only falling to No.1-ranked Hopewell last month.
Paul Larsen - a 6-foot-6, 220-pound center - has stood out, averaging nearly a double-double with 15 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. Larsen has also been getting help from Garringer transfer Reggie Price, who is averaging 18.2 points per game.
During Lake Norman's first meeting with North Meck, the Wildcats were led by Price's 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting. Fellow seniors Kevin Canevari and Larsen added 11 points each.
The Wildcats are a threat to any team because of their balance, but also because of their experience as all five of Lake Norman's starters are seniors.
The Wildcats will heavily depend on Larsen, whose matchup with North Meck's Bernard Sullivan could prove to be the difference maker in this game.
The Vikings (10-4, 0-4 I-Meck through Jan. 14) have struggled in their conference, losing all of their games by less than 10 points.
North Meck started their season 7-0 before playing Lake Norman in their first conference game.
Sullivan's impressive 29 point, 11 rebound performance was not enough to propel the Vikings against the Wildcats in December.
Since then, the Vikings have been able to beat all of their nonconference opponents and won the Leon Brogden Holiday Basketball Tournament in Wilmington last month.
Sullivan, a strong Division I prospect, and 5-foot-11 guard Carlin Bremner, who scored 18 points against the Wildcats in their first game, will need to get help from their teammates in order to defeat the Wildcats this time around.
The Vikings must find a consistent third scorer to take away some of the double and even triple-teams off of Sullivan to allow him to work under the basket. This could not only help the Vikings come up with a win against the Wildcats, but it also could get them out of their bad streak in the I-Meck.
That extra help could come from juniors Philip Anglade, Andrew Frowine and Karl Barkley.