A state championship contender will run into all kinds of obstacles, North Mecklenburg boys’ basketball coach Duane Lewis said, and the Vikings had to overcome something different Tuesday night.
“We’ve had players get into foul trouble late in the game, but to have three players in trouble early?” Lewis said shortly after North Mecklenburg beat back a Butler challenge for a 78-66 4A West Regional semifinal victory.
“Our guys didn’t panic” Lewis added. “We had some players come off the bench and pick it up.”
North Mecklenburg (27-2) will face Charlotte Catholic in the West Regional final Saturday, with the winner advancing to the state title game.
The Vikings built a big early lead despite a load of foul troubles. Starters Jaylen McManus, Greg Joyner and Ethan Wacker had three fouls apiece in the early going.
McManus managed to stay on the floor long enough to score 12 of the Vikings’ 25 first-quarter points, then senior guard Davion Mintz took over. Mintz finished with a game-high 27 points, hitting seven free throws in the fourth quarter when Butler fouled him in an effort to get the ball.
The Bulldogs (24-6) trailed 46-29 at the half and were down 59-39 late in the third quarter. But they scored 21 of the game’s next 28 points and crawled within 66-60 with 2 minutes, 11 seconds left to play. North led only 69-63 with 1:40 left but put the game away at the foul line.
3 who mattered
Davion Mintz: He scored 27 points and provided North Mecklenburg with a steady hand after the Vikings experienced first-half foul troubles. Mintz, a 6-foot-3 senior who is headed to Creighton next year, is averaging more than 29 points a game this season.
Orlando Robinson: A 6-foot senior guard, Robinson scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and helped Butler close to within six points twice in the closing minutes. He finished with 18 points, the same as teammate Raequan Scott.
Jaylen McManus: Another of North Meck’s seniors, McManus scored 12 points in the first quarter, 26 for the game, and ended the contest with a dunk.
▪ North Mecklenburg remained undefeated this season against North Carolina competition. The Vikings’ losses came in the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn., in late December. They lost to highly ranked teams from Georgia and Tennessee.
▪ While North Mecklenburg got into early foul trouble, the Vikings ended up taking 33 free throws, to 18 for Butler.
▪ Vikings coach Duane Lewis said the team didn’t learn until mid-afternoon Monday that the N.C. High School Athletic Association had moved the game from North Mecklenburg to Hough High’s gym, which has more seating capacity. “We were the top seed and were looking forward to playing at home,” he said.
▪ North Mecklenburg was undefeated this season on its own floor (10-0), but the Vikings also were unbeaten (4-0) at Hough. The MECKA 4A tournament was played there.
▪ The loss was Butler’s first since Jan. 19 at Independence. The Bulldogs had won 11 in a row.
They said it
“You’re going to face adversity along the line if you hope to win a state championship. It’s how you react to it that makes the difference.” – North Mecklenburg coach Duane Lewis.