BOONVILLE — An 8-0 run in the second quarter gave the Rams some breathing room, then Starmount pulled away in the second half to beat North Moore 63-40 in the first round of the state 1A playoffs.
The Mustangs fired early and often from three-point range, but made only three all night against a tough Ram defense.
Coach Rocky Horton said he knew from scouting North Moore that the players were willing to settle for threes, so he had his defense pack in tight and dare the Mustangs to make enough shots to draw the Rams out.
The Mustangs made one three-pointer in the first quarter, but Starmount didn’t take advantage of that, leading just 12-9. The top two scorers, Kyler Gregory and Brandon Prescott, didn’t have a point in the first quarter.
Prescott changed that by making the first basket in the second quarter. Then from a 14-12 advantage, the Rams went on an 11-1 run, including eight in a row to take a 25-13 lead. They would lead 29-20 at the break.
North Moore brought in another shooter in the second quarter, but Chase Matthews went 0-4 in the period himself, allowing Starmount to pull ahead.
“Houston (Nicks) really stepped up in the first half,” said Horton. The junior guard hit a triple in the first, then back-to-back treys during the 11-1 run. Those shots opened up driving lanes for Brandon and Kyler.
Prescott would finish with a game-high 18 points. Gregory and Nicks had 11 points each, Griffin Cass 10 and Andrew Smythers six. Malik McCrimmon had a team-high 15 for the Mustangs, while Aaron Richardson added nine.
Horton said his team showed great scoring balance to keep the opponent off-balance.
In the second half, the Rams didn’t let North Moore back in the game. They started the third with a 9-2 run to take a 38-22 lead.
McCrimmon had an acrobatic reverse layup on one end, but Prescott came back with a bucket and the foul on the other end, which pushed the lead to 17 at 41-24. The lead was 43-28 at the end of the third quarter.
The Mustangs cut the lead to 13 at the start of the fourth, but the home team went on an 18-5 run and won by 23.
North Moore tried to press the Rams in the second half. After some early struggles, Starmount regained its composure and turned that pressure into fast-break chances for Prescott and Gregory.
Once those driving lanes opened up, Horton said he was glad to see his team be aggressive rather than continue to take three-pointers. He also noted that the players were setting good screens to free up drives in the halfcourt, too.
In addition to leading the team in scoring, Prescott had an unofficial four blocks and several rebounds.
Brandon is everywhere, said the coach. He was a defensive back on the football team and showed good instincts and ball skills there, and that has carried over to basketball.
North Moore had a light showing of fans, but Starmount had its half of the gym quite full.
Horton said he was pleasantly surprised at what a great turnout Starmount had, considering this was a school night. He hopes to have a similarly packed and loud crowd for Thursday’s second-round game.
The Rams get another home game thanks to their showing as the top 1A team in the Mountain Valley.
However, the Rams (17-10) have a tough opponent as Hayesville is 22-5 and whipped East Montgomery (15-7 going in) by 26 points.