HENDERSONVILLE – Austin Nelson never has to go too far to be humbled.
The North Henderson junior said that working with kids at Apple Valley Middle School – which is right next door to the high school – is what does the trick.
Nelson and the Knights (13-0, 5-0) are doing good deeds on and off the court this winter. They are riding high with their best start since the 2002-03 season and are Western North Carolina boys basketball’s only undefeated team in 2016.
“We’re having so much fun,” Nelson said.
“Even the other teams (in Henderson County), who are our big rivals, say good things about our team. It makes you feel happy.”
North Henderson’s boys hadn’t beaten Pisgah in at least eight or nine years, coach Justin Parris surmised Tuesday night. They have now – Nelson led the way in scoring (17 points) rebounds (seven) and assists (three), while Drew Williams added 15 points in a 60-51 home win.
The game was close and physical throughout. It was 33-33 at halftime and the Knights were only up by two points midway through the fourth quarter.
“I was a little nervous about this game because we hadn’t beaten (Pisgah) in so long,” said Nelson, who has been averaging a team-high 17.9 points per game, followed by Kyle Decker (12.8 ppg.) and Williams (10.6 ppg.).
“It was tough, but it was a good team win.”
North Henderson is fourth in the most recent NCPreps.com state poll for NCHSAA 3-A, and even received a first-place vote this week. The Knights have matched their wins total from all of last season with Tuesday’s victory and travel to Brevard on Friday for their next WNC Athletic Conference game.
“We knew that Pisgah’s kids would play hard and they did,” Parris said.
“Our kids got after it, too, and I was confident that they would. Basketball is a game of runs, and fortunately we ended the game with one.”
Kalin Ensley (six) and Ryan Decker (four) combined for 10 rebounds.
The Black Bears (5-7, 3-2) got double figures in scoring from Tanner Wike (15 points) and Trey Morgan (12).
Parris was a senior guard on the 2002-03 North Henderson team that was 14-0 before losing its first game. For now, that remains the best start in school history.
The Knights’ average margin of victory this season is 19.2 points, but they’ve also prevailed in four games decided by single digits. Williams, Ryan Decker, Cole McCarson and Michael Pace are the team’s four seniors.
Ryan Decker is a North Carolina Central baseball recruit who grabs 6.6 rebounds a night, followed by Markese Lynch (5.3), Ensley (4.8) and Nelson (3.8). Nelson is dishing out 4.2 assists a game, while Decker is second (3.2) and Williams (2.2) is third. Finally, Decker is averaging 3.8 assists with Nelson (3.2) close behind.
This year’s WNCAC tournament is Feb. 12-18 with first-round games at the higher seeds and then the semifinals and championship games at Tuscola. The NCHSAA playoffs start on Feb. 23.