CARY — Sometimes Nubian Spann lets the game come to him, other times the Panther Creek center is an aggressive catalyst. His coaches prefer the latter, and Friday night was an example why.
The Catamounts are still unbeaten in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference after a 68-52 home victory against Middle Creek.
Despite being sluggish out of the gate – Panther Creek had not played since Dec. 19 – Spann’s energy kept the Catamounts in control for most of the game.
Motivated by being a senior who had never beaten the Mustangs, as well as guarding Mustangs star center Fred Iruafemi, Spann ended with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
“We had to get to them early, go all out and don’t hold back,” Spann said.
“He’s such an unselfish kid,” Catamounts coach L.J. Hepp said. “He’s content at times of being almost too much of a team guy. The Nubian that came tonight, we need that more often.”
Neither Panther Creek (11-1, 3-0), No. 2 in the News & Observer rankings, nor Middle Creek had much go right offensively in the first half.
Panther Creek trailed for most of the game, but two Juan Munoz 3-pointers (15 points) kicked the Catamounts into a 23-20 halftime lead.
For the most part, Spann traded baskets with Middle Creek star center Fred Iruafemi, who ended with 17 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks.
“We chose to play behind Fred, who we think is very good, but it was a pick-your-poison type (of scenario),” Hepp said, with the other poison meaning Middle Creek’s 3-point shooters. “Nubian’s assignment on defense was huge, and I think that got him going offensively. He just rose to the challenge.”
Panther Creek’s top scorer was Gaqwez Hudson, who got rolling late in the game as the Catamounts began to force turnovers and quick shots.
Coach David Kushner’s Mustangs (6-7, 1-2) are in search of better defense and defensive rebounding from players other than Iruafemi.
“A zone only works when you rebound ... When we had to go man(-to-man) they exploited us like we’ve exploited in every one of our losses,” Kushner said. “We have a very small margin for error when we’re not shooting the ball well.”
Middle Creek was also just 2-of-14 from behind the arc after hitting 13 in its most recent game, a Holiday Invitational win against Hammond (S.C.) School. Bryson Cousins was the only other Mustang with double-digit points (11).
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps