"B" game a winner for North Meck

North Mecklenburg coach Duane Lewis graded his team's performance as below a "B" following a 58-48 win [Jan. 14] at West Charlotte. Despite the coach's final review, a very big "B," again, had no small part in keeping the Vikings far from below the state's hoops radar.

Ben Stywall, a 6-6 power forward, netted 10 points and pulled 10 rebounds for his first of three consecutive double-doubles.

The win over the Lions – the first in "The Lions Den" for sixth-year mentor Lewis – was the second of four straight victorious intra-league road trips over 10 days for North Mecklenburg (17-1, 8-0 through Jan. 21), including stops Jan. 11 at Charlotte Independence (66-58), Jan. 19 at Central Cabarrus (77-65), and Jan. 21 at Huntersville Hopewell (86-49).

Stywall added 19 (points) and 18 (rebounds) versus Central Cabarrus to go with 16 and 12 two days later.

"He's one of the guys I can coach the way I want to coach, and he can deal with it," Lewis said. "He listens to what the coaches are telling him. He's the difference maker for us. "Jamie (Skeen) is likely the most talented," Lewis continued, "…but Ben's the leader."

Stywall, an ideal, complimentary post presence [to the 6-9 center Skeen] is content to make his greatest impact as a defender and rebounder, though he chipped in 15 points per game in the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational last December. The Vikings took third in the eight-team field, and Stywall and Skeen, a junior preseason All-American, were named to the all-invitational team.

Stywall, too, has been mentioned alongside former West Charlotte power forward Dell Douglas, who stood 6-5 as a senior. Douglas teamed with prep All-American center and N.C. player of the year Jason Parker (6-8), and helped the Lions to the 1998-99 4A state title.

"As a coach, I believe he's the one they can't lose," West Charlotte coach Gosnell White said of Stywall.

"Jason (Parker) was critical for us," White continued, "but we couldn't lose Dell Douglas. He's their Dell Douglas."

Stywall's first quarter effort against West Charlotte included three steals and four rebounds. The Lions did not score until 1:03 left in the period, and trailed 13-2 entering the second stanza.

"I try to overplay maybe when Jamie's man is not as athletic as he is, and like, he can recover in time, cause I know he'll have my back," Stywall said. "I just try to anticipate, try to pick a good time when my man, like, tires."

West Charlotte had but 39 points midway through the fourth quarter, and Stywall finished with six steals, a blocked shot and a drawn charge. Stywall and Skeen, according to Lewis, allow their perimeter counterparts to take more chances, which yielded five steals for point guard C.J. Young against his former school.

The Lions committed 21 turnovers, and managed just 20 field goals.

"It's not the best team they've had, but again, that's our signature. We play defense," Lewis said. "We want to hold people under 54 points, and we were there at it again."

The Vikings have held their opponents under 54 points 11 times, and surrendered fewer than 59 points on three more occasions.

The recent four-game run for North Mecklenburg – ranked No. 1 among N.C. 4A schools – concluded what Lewis called his team's biggest stretch of the season. The Vikings will host Independence (Feb. 1), West Charlotte (Feb. 8), and Central Cabarrus (Feb. 10) among their last four regular season games.

Stywall's potential offensive output is among the lesser worries, at least for White.

"You can see he doesn't care what players score on the team," White said. "He gets his off the glass."

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