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Future bright at North

The North Lincoln Knights JV basketball team lost to the Maiden Blue Devils 64-53 in the last Southern Foothills game of the season. No biggie, the Knights, although disappointed with their season-finale, enjoyed their most successful JV season in the school’s short history, going 19-3 and 11-1 in the SF 1A.
Head coach Jay Thompson believes his team just put too much pressure on themselves to win the final game.
“I think we put some extra pressure on ourselves to have an undefeated conference record. We won the first game against them by 12 points. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you have something to think about in the long run,” he said.
Still the Knights accomplished a lot in 2005. They beat Lincoln Co. rivals West Lincoln and East Lincoln twice and threw in a two-point victory versus Lincolnton for good measure.
In an ironic twist, North Lincoln ruined Maiden’s unblemished record last season. Thompson said the spoiler role just changed hands this season.
“It’s fitting because we did the same thing to them last year. Turnabout is fair play. It was just conference we were undefeated, but they beat us the last game just as we did last year. I don’t think the focus should be on that last game because the whole special was very special for us,” he said.
The Knights were led by MVP point guard 5’9” Adrian Arruza, center Trent Hopkins who was the leading scorer and rebounder with six boards per game and T.J. Skidmore, who played power forward, and also averaged in double figures.
“Adrian came through in the clutch when we needed a score and is a very good floor leader. He’s someone who can drain a three. Trent, you can’t ask for a tougher kid. When we needed a rebound he got it, when we need a steal he got it and he’s a floor leader—a great kid to have out there. When his shot was on, he was hard to stop,” Thompson said of the trio.
As with any successful team, the Knights had solid role players, with Jordan and A.J. Smith (no relation) being chiefs among them.
“They were role players that in terms of chemistry of the team, we needed players like them on the floor,” Thompson said.
6’0” Sam Williams, who was the sixth man on the club, allowed Skidmore to play more on the perimeter which was his natural position. Matt Hovis was ‘such a smart player,’ according to Thompson, he was able to play every position on the floor.
Freshman guard Montreal Wilson also made his mark on the team with his athleticism.
“He has very good quickness and has a good shot from outside. He’s also capable of handling the ball,” Thompson said.
Other team members that helped improve a 12-7 team to 19-3 were:
Santania Jones, Taylor Brown, Tripp Miller, Scotty Withers, Brandon Baker, Alex Keener and Matt Watts. Keener received the Most Improved Award at the conclusion of the season.
With the Knights’ varsity basketball program reaching the 1A Western Sectional Finals and head coach David Johnson likely going to keep 15 players, there will be some fierce competition in next year’s tryouts.
“It’s going to be an interesting tryout next season. There are 10 sophomores that could try out for varsity with 10 returning players. There is going to be some strong competition. The future looks bright,” Thompson said.
The win versus Lincolnton highlighted just how far they have come, as the Wolves were 12-0 at the time and have a traditionally strong program. In front of a large crowd, Arruza worked his way free to hit a reverse lay-up in what turned out to be the winning basket.
Thompson, who sings Karen’s (his wife) praises for taking care of their children Katie and Jason, believes his team has gobs of potential.
“These kids had a very successful season, along with what the varsity did this year. It will be interesting to see how much we grow and improve on what we did this year,” he said.

by John Mark Brooks

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