Northern Guilford(29-3)-Gastonia Forestview(25-6) coming up at 7:30 Saturday night at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh and we need to take time to look at the Nighthawks and Jaguars as they prepare to battle for the Men’s State 3-A Championship.
I have seen Northern Guilford at least 10 times this season and the Nighthawks have gotten better with age and believe it not, these kids are getting older. I have always been a big fan of Johnathan Frye, since I saw him for the first time coming off of the bench, as a skinny red-head for High Point Central back when he was just a freshman.
I saw Frye against Northwest Guilford back in 2007 at Guilford College and that night he showed me he could run the offense, rebound and the kid could DUNK. Jacob Lawson has been a factor since the first time he walked on the basektball court for Northern. At 6’7, and with the long arm-span/wing-span, Lawson can control the game from the inside out and he does with his long arms sending visiting shots up into the seats.
Frye and Lawson were the first two guys that stood out for me in the early days of Northern and they have only gotten better this year. Lawson has really stepped up here late in the season and his defense along with Christian McCain standing with him near the basket, well that is a very strong defensive force for opposing teams to try and overcome. I do think this made a big difference in the Kinston game last Saturday night. Northern had both of the big men in there and it’s tough to bring it toward Lawson and McCain, when the those two forces are in the lane at the same time.
Forestview will send DeJuan Means to the hole and he comes inside at 6’3, but he only weighs 155. Means had 24 points in the Jaguars 60-54 win over High Point Andrews at the Greensboro Coliseum last week. McCain and Lawson have heighth and weight on Means, but they will have to keep a close watch out for Calvin Smith, who checks in at 6’8/205 for the Jaguars. Smith had 10 points and he hit the boards hard against High Point Andrews.
The Jaguars have 6’0, Preston Holmes and 6’1, Jack Sumner in the backcourt and they start 6’0, Chris Johnson at the other forward spot along-side Means. The Nighthawks should match up well with the Forestview guards/wings when they send out Michael Neal and Asad Lamont to join Johnathan Frye in a three-guard system. Neal has shown me more this year than any other Nighthawk when it comes to eye-opening performances. Neal penetrates and takes the ball to the basket as good as any guard I’ve seen play this season. His penetration has been phenomenal here in the post-season.
You would not believe the space Neal was receiving as he went to the basket in the opening-round East Regional game last week against Bertie at ECU. To put it in rapping terms, Neal can steal, and he can wheel and deal. Neal has become like a consummate point-guard, but his teammate Aasd Lamont compliments him so well, and they form a solid one-two system out front for the Nighthawks. Lamont can help you with the outside shot and physically he is a little bit bigger than Neal and that brings you extra strength on defense.
With Dylan Berry, John McBeth and JR Grant coming in off of the bench, you would have to give the Nighthawks an edge in depth. Berry can bury the three-pointers, McBeth is a slasher who can take it to the basket and Grant can use his size to give Northern an inside boost off of the bench.
It appears that some people have chosen to cheer or pull against the Nighthawks as they go for the State Championship. We need to bring as many of those naysayers as we can over to the side of Purple and White as they get ready to try and bring the Title home to Guilford County on Saturday night.
It’s not just Northern going for the Title, it’s Guilford County and the surrounding Greensboro area. The Nighthawk kids can do something special. Give these kids a chance and again, just look how much they have accomplished already.
This is Northern’s time now and let’s hope it’s all Northen Now on Saturday night when they take the floor against Forestview in Raleigh at Reynolds.