MOUNT ULLA — And now for some bad news for those who aren’t fans of West Rowan. Namely, the Falcons won’t go 0-24.
West’s boys beat Mooreville 54-52 on Friday in a wild, high-contact, helter-skelter basketball game that was basically a free-throw shooting contest.
Seth Martin put a shooting slump behind him with a career-best 20 points, and Zeke Blackwood and Broderick Avery made the difference-making plays at the end.
“It’s not like the tough times are over for us,” sighed West coach Mike Gurley. “But this game will help us get through those tough times that are still ahead of us. What was good about it was we fought for 32 minutes.”
Mooresville got 19 of its 34 first-half points on unguarded 15-footers from the charity stripe, but it was West that made more free ones late.
“We’re young and we made a bunch of young mistakes,” Mooresville coach Michael Micklow said. “You can talk about this play or this call all you want to, but it came down to us not making our free throws. We’re up six, and if we make free throws we win, but we miss four in a row.”
West (1-4) made a concerted effort to make the game as ugly as possible — and succeeded.
“It’s how we have to play,” Gurley said. “It’s not like we’re going to suddenly grow a bunch of inches.”
Mooresville (2-2), which got 19 points from Dre Howell and 12 from Curt Richter, racked up free throw after free throw, as the Falcons piled up fouls.
West was able to stay in the game while being outscored 19-3 on free throws in the first half because Martin got hot in the second quarter. He buried three straight shots, one runner and two from long range, and the Falcons made it to halftime trailing just 34-31.
“Guys are counting on me to make shots, but I’ve been struggling and pressing,” Martin said. “It felt great to make some.”
It had to help Martin that he was playing at home for the first time since Nov. 27.
Martin was quiet in the third quarter, and West slid behind 46-37 in the early stages of the fourth, but just when it appeared the Blue Devils were pulling away for good, Martin found it again. His 3-pointer that made it 46-40 stopped Mooresville’s momentum.
“We’re going to have our scoring lulls because this is an entirely new group of guys,” Gurley said. “I feel like Brian Perry must have felt at Carson when they were just starting out. This isn’t a new school, but we’re starting over.”
West trailed 50-44 with 2:27 left when Avery drilled a huge 3-pointer.
Next, Avery located an Martin for the 3-pointer that tied the game at 50-50 with a little over a minute to go and created pandemonium in the West gym.
“Martin was wonderful tonight,” Gurley said. “And everyone else we put out there played his butt off.”
When Mooresville’s Robbie Sherrill missed a free throw for the lead, Blackwood , a muscular strong safety, found himself battling for the rebound with Mooresville’s 6-foot-3 Ralph Montgomery. The whistle blew.
“I was boxing out, doing what I was asked,” Blackwood said. “I heard the whistle and was afraid the foul was on me.”
It wasn’t. Blackwood marched to the line with 56 seconds left, and he made a free throw that put West on top to stay.
Avery hit two free throws down the stretch for a 53-50 West lead, but Howell swished two free ones for the Blue Devils. Martin shocked everyone by missing two free throws with 13 seconds left, but Blackwood stole the ball as Mooresville raced up the floor, and then Avery hit yet another free throw for 54-52.
“Right spot, right time,” Blackwood said with a grin.
Mooresville was called for a sideline violation on its final possession, and when West got the ball inbounds, time expired and Falcons — fans, coaches and players — celebrated.
“West played us tough tonight and this is always a tough place to play,” Micklow said. “That’s why we scheduled it.”
MOORESVILLE (52) — Howell 19, Richter 12, Summers 6, Montgomery 6, A. Sherrill 3, R. Sherrill 3, Williams 2, Vanderburg 1, Hashem, Greenwell.
WEST ROWAN (54) — Martin 20, Avery 13, Reddick 8, Tucker 6, Morrison 4, Blackwood 1, Hassard 1, Long 1, Gabriel, Gallagher, Phillips, Hodzic, Davidson, Wilson,
Mooresville 18 16 9 9 — 52
W. Rowan 16 15 6 17 — 54