DEVIL IN THE FLESH: Red Devils’ basketball takes care of conference foe Bandys; begin 2020 with sweep in enemy territory

Red Devils’ senior forward Jaheim McCathern (35) looks for an open man against Bandys on Friday night. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)Lady Tojans’ sophomore point guard Macy Rummage (10) being defended by Newton-Conover senior guard Aaliah Walton (14) in the home loss on Friday, January 3. (Photo by Michelle Thompson)
By: 
Marcus Smith
Sports Editor

CATAWBA – The Newton-Conover Red Devils and Bandys Trojans’ varsity basketball rang in the new year with South Fork 2A Conference action on Friday, January 3, at Bandys High School. Both Red Devil squads earned wins in enemy territory but in vastly different ways.

GIRLS

Newton-Conover 67, Bandys 50

The Lady Trojans were ransacked by the talented Lady Red Devils from the opening tip. Both teams were coming off their respective holiday tournaments as they each entered at 8-2 overall.

Bandys (8-3, 1-1) also came into the match-up after winning the 2019 People’s Bank Holiday Clash title on December 28, 2019. While, Newton-Conover suffered its second loss of the season against Hickory in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Classic championship on Dec. 30.

On paper, the two matched up quite nicely. Nevertheless, Bandys’ firepower was mostly contained as it couldn’t find the bottom of the basket for most of the night.

As for the Lady Red Devils (9-2, 2-0), sure there was yet another great outing by senior center Chyna Cornwell as she posted 28 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and one steal, but the unsung hero of the contest was junior forward Grace Loftin.

Loftin was a true definition of an inside-out player on Friday night, as she cleaned up the glass for 11 rebounds – nine offensive – as well as 14 points of her own. Loftin knocked down a pair of threes, collected a pair of steals and dished the ball to her teammates four times. It was a well-rounded performance that made up for her struggles against Hickory in the Dick's Sporting Goods Classic championship.

Senior Jahlea Peters didn't fill up the stat sheet but her effort in spreading the rock and locking down on D was enough to get the job done. Peters obtained a game-high six assists to go along with five points, two rebounds and three steals.

On the other side, Lady Trojans’ sophomore point guard Macy Rummage led her team with 15 points – including a trio of three-pointers – four rebounds, one assist and two steals. Laci Paul was the only other consistent hot-hand as she garnered 14 points (4-for-4 from the free-throw line), five rebounds and a steal.

At the half, the Lady Red Devils were ahead, 34-23 and showed no signs of slowing down.

Senior guard Aaliah Walton and freshman point guard Cassidy Geddes – who earned the starting nod – contributed emphatically on the defensive side of the ball, as per usual, with three steals apiece. The pair's on-ball defense has aided the Lady Red Devils this season.

Geddes also obtained 10 points – including a pair of three-pointers – along with four assists and three boards.

There were times in the second half in which the Lady Trojans' caught a bit of steam due to Rummage's ability to push the ball up the court with ease. However, there were also times where speed was a killer for Rummage and it cost her team a considerable amount of turnovers. She's only a sophomore, so that is to be expected.

The Lady Red Devils were able to take advantage as it scored 13 points off of Bandys' 22 turnovers on the night.

Senior Toni Laney did her job as she collected seven points – including one three-pointer – and two dimes in the comeback-effort. Sophomore forward Logan Dutka could not find her footing offensively (finishing with five points), but she still managed to contribute with a team-high four assists as well as three steals.

UP NEXT: The Lady Trojans travel to Lincolnton on Tuesday night for another conference battle set for 6 p.m. While, the Lady Red Devils travel to West Lincoln for a 6:30 p.m. start.

BOYS

Newton-Conover 71, Bandys 66

The upset bid was in full-effect for Bandys inside of Bost-Matheson Gymnasium on Friday night.

It was an up-and-down, roller-coaster of a contest that went the extra mile and then some for an overtime finish. For the Red Devils, veteran instinct was the key to the 71-66 victory.

The match-up had 13 lead changes and 11 ties with the highest margin ahead being seven points. Martinez picked up a pivotal technical foul with under six minutes left in the contest and Bandys' Zack Wright stepped up to knock down the pair at the line to make it a 50-46 game

Tied at 59-all with 10 seconds left in regulation, Bandys' Spencer Ledford found Nate Ervin in the middle and he hit a runner in stride to give his team the two-point edge. That was until Red Devils' senior guard Maverick Davis' heroics.

“No credit to the coaches,” said Bandys' 1st-year year head coach Matt Oaks about the team's ability to rally back from down six to get ahead by two. “That was all the players. They made a lot of big plays. There weren't any sets we ran. They just, they played under control (with) a lot of good plays for their teammates. (They) finished strong at the basket. I was very proud of them for getting back in it and getting that lead.”

Davis was in the clutch as he drove to the basket in traffic to convert the timely bucket on a wild right-handed scoop layup with 1.6 seconds remaining in the game with the score at 61-all.

Trojans' freshman forward Chris Culliver threw up a full-court heave that missed the left side of the basket sending the game into OT. Culliver was a spark off of the bench with 12 points – including a trey – three rebounds and two steals.

Also, a spark was senior guard Quenten Maddox as he finished with 10 points, a team-high seven boards, three assists and two steals.

“Those guys are two seniors that came up big in a lot of big situations tonight,” said Oaks of Spencer Ledford and Quenten Maddox. “I know they're not going to get the pat on the back from everybody because we lost, but for me, I see them making the big plays under control. (I'm) very proud of the way they played.”

From start to finish, the poise of Davis and his fellow seniors Mathew Martinez and Jaheim McCathern would be a testament to how the Red Devils was able to come out on top.

Martinez and McCathern earned 16 and 14 points, respectively with clutch baskets coming in OT. McCathern also finished with nine rebounds – seven on the offensive glass --

The Trojans (5-6, 0-2) had the cojones to defend home-court with some wily scoring efforts by a veteran presence of its own in senior forward Spencer Ledford as he earned 16 points. In overtime, Ledford made some key runners in traffic to bring his squad within striking distance.

In the extra period, Ledford scored the first bucket, but McCathern answered with a put-back of Martinez's miss. McCathern then added another lay-in before Ledford responded with his on drive to the hoop that tied it a 65.

With 50 seconds remaining in OT, Martinez had a clutch moment of his own as he knocked down a dagger from the left side of the court to give his team the lead for good.

“We lost a game in a similar fashion here last year with Bandys doing exactly what we did to win the basketball game,” said Red Devils' head coach Matt Wilkinson. “They sent it to overtime and then they got stops on us. I'm proud of our mental toughness. We had an opportunity when we fell down there. We were frustrated, just how the game-flow was going. It felt like if there was a 50-50 ball, we just weren't getting some breaks that you feel like you need to get to win a basketball game. (We) stuck with it. (We) made a couple of baskets when it mattered and then defensively we did a real good job there in overtime.”

Wilkinson also mentioned the game-plan against Ledford and company down the stretch.

“(Spencer) Ledford, I've seen them several times this year, he's a very good basketball player. I mean, he's hard to stop and when you're playing in man-to-man and you have good coverage on him and he just stops...goes up and shoots it over you. You just got to tip your cap to the guy,” said Wilkinson. “He played really well and those other kids (Quenten Maddox and Chris Culliver) knocked down big shots too.

“This has always been a very difficult place to get a win. I feel like our seniors...fought through some of those things that have prevented us from winning in the past.”

Ledford had a couple of opportunities to get within reach once again, but mucked up a couple of shots at the charity stripe as he missed three of his last four at the line. Then, it would be a free-throw game with Martinez, Davis and McCathern converting the 'give me' shots.

The victory kept the Red Devils (8-4, 2-0) in a three-way tie for first-place in the South Fork 2A Conference with the Maiden Blue Devils – who defeated West Lincoln soundly – and Lake Norman Charter Knights. The Blue Devils and Knights are set for a collision at Maiden High School on Tuesday night at 8 p.m.

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