RALEIGH — The Northwood boys basketball team entered Saturday night's 3A state final with a distinct size advantage over Central Cabarrus.
The Chargers had three players at least 6-foot-6 or taller, including a pair of mammoth senior forwards in 6-foot-8 Max Frazier and 6-foot-10 Kenan Parrish. The Vikings' tallest player, meanwhile, was 6-foot-5 junior Desmond Kent.
But with the pressure dialed up to 11 inside Reynolds Coliseum on Saturday, the Chargers were unable to overpower a free-flowing Central Cabarrus offense, ultimately falling, 65-51.
"I'm very proud of our guys with how they battled," said Northwood head coach Matt Brown. "We had a terrific year. It wasn't the outcome we expected or wanted, obviously, but I'm a blessed human being to be able to coach guys like these."
Northwood opened the game on a 6-0 run, but it didn't take long for the undefeated Vikings (32-0) to find their rhythm on both ends of the court.
Led by some hot outside shooting, Central Cabarrus accumulated a 24-15 lead after one quarter. The Vikings were led in the opening period by seniors Adriel Miller and Gavin Bullock, who canned five of the team's six 3-pointers over the first eight minutes.
Central Cabarrus also opened the second quarter on a 4-0 run, which prompted Brown to call his first timeout on the night. While the Chargers were able to battle back to within eight points, 34-26, at halftime, the damage had already been done.
"The first quarter really hurt us," Brown said. "They jumped on us quick. We made a run, but with them shooting how they did, it was tough. In the second, third and fourth, we did what we normally do. Give them credit. They made their shots."
In the second half, Cabarrus kept the lead at a comfotable margin between eight and 15 points. The Vikings had an answer for every Northwood defensive look, either passing the ball around the zone for an open outside shot or finding Kent down low for a few buckets.
Defensively, Central Cabarrus completely overwhelmed Northwood's ball-handlers, forcing turnover after turnover over the game's final two quarters. The Chargers finished the night with four more turnovers (19) than assisted baskets (15).
"They did a really good job of trapping us and putting pressure on the ball," Brown said. "I thought we handled it, at some points, pretty good. At other points, we didn't."
The only player able to do much offensively for Northwood was junior Drake Powell, who totaled a game-high 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Parrish was the only other Chargers in double-figures with 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while the rest of the Northwood roster managed 24 points on 10-of-26 (38.4%) from the field.
After pouring in a barrage of threes in the first quarter, Cabarrus didn't make one over the final three periods, but their ball-movement made it hard for Northwood to key in on any one player. Six Vikings had at least six points, led by Miller and Kent, who both totaled 16.
Cabarrus held an 8-2 advantage in fast-break points and a 20-10 edge in points off turnovers. The Vikings also managed the same number of paint points (28) as the Chargers.
"They're a great team," said senior Max Frazier. "They've been playing against bigger teams all season. I think they were kind of used to it, I guess. Them crashing the boards, all five guys, kind of hurt us, because we didn't really box out."