Northwestern 3A/4A Conference tournament play got underway on Tuesday night and the McDowell Titans were in a rare spot of playing the role of the underdog.
McDowell, the No. 6 seed in the boys’ bracket, got off to a blazing start offensively against the three-seed Alexander Central Cougars. However, the upset bid fell short during the second half with Alexander Central surviving with a 70-65 win in Taylorsville.
The Cougars (17-8) advance to tonight’s semifinal at Hickory High School against the No. 2 seed Hickory Red Tornadoes, who were also victorious on Tuesday evening against West Caldwell 57-45.
Alexander Central’s path to the semis included getting past a valiant effort by the Titans, who jumped out to an early lead.
McDowell (10-15) in the first half shot at a 60-percent clip (12 of 20), and that allowed the Titans to accumulate as lead as high as 17-8 after one quarter.
After the opening stanza the Cougars began to chip into that margin, getting to within two points at 31-29 at the break.
The momentum continued after the break as Alexander Central outscored the Titans 20-12 in the third quarter and never relinquished the lead from that point. The fourth quarter was high-scoring on both ends with McDowell holding a 22-21 advantage in the frame, but the team was never able to get in position to square things back up on the scoreboard before time ran out.
In all, 57 of the 65 points scored by the Titans came from their backcourt trio of guards.
Senior point guard Dylan McRary (4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) posted a game-high 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting, including five 3-pointers.
J.C. Olivo (5 assists, 2 rebounds) added 13 points and Qualique Garner (2 rebounds, 2 assists) had 11 points.
Richard Handy (2 rebounds) scored four points. Dequan Boyce (2 rebounds) and Trent Lewis (4 rebounds) finished with two points each.
McDowell overall struggled in the paint as they were outscored 32-22, along with Alexander Central holding a 30-21 rebounding margin.
The Cougars as a team shot 55 percent (25 of 45) in the game and were led by Jem Lowrance who scored 25 points and gathered 11 rebounds.
Guard Zach Wooten added 14 points and Jamison Benfield added 12 points off the bench. Alexander Central held a 13-6 edge in points off the bench.
Starters Dalton Stikeleather (9 points), Lyndon Strickland (6 points) and Lucas Walker (3 points) also scored in the contest.
McDowell, by finishing in front of South Caldwell in the league this season, has earned an automatic bid in the upcoming State 4A Playoffs which begin next Tuesday.