Moir Christmas Classic: West Rowan girls 55, Davie 54: Steele wins it
SALISBURY — West Rowan coach Todd McNeely counted 23 blown layups by the Falcons in a Friday night Moir semifinal, but that 23rd one led to victory.
When Khaila Hall whipped a pass to Shanice Miller with eight seconds left, Miller powered the layup too strong, but Shay Steele was in position on the weakside and stuck back the final points of West’s 55-54 semifinal win against Davie.
“I was down there waiting, and the ball came rolling over the rim,” the 6-foot-2 senior said. “I was praying because I’d thought I’d missed the shot, but I got it in off the backboard.”
Always good in the Sam Moir Christmas Classic, Steele, who has signed with Morehead State, finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Of her 1,219 career points, 138 have come in this tournament.
After Steele’s bucket, Davie still had 6.3 seconds to work with, and Madison Zaferatos drove the ball the length of the court and was able to draw a foul from fellow freshman Hall with 1.4 seconds remaining.
West was fortunate both of Zaferatos’ free throws bounced off the iron. Alison Sobataka won the scramble for the rebound after the second one, and the top-seeded Falcons were officially in the championship game for the first time since 2009. West hasn’t won the Moir crown since 1996.
“I didn’t breathe until we got back down to the locker room,” West coach Todd McNeely said. “Davie always plays us tough, and it could have easily been overtime with them again tonight. But we’ve got a bunch of girls who don’t like losing.”
West got two massive 3s from Nycieko Dixon when it was on the verge of losing and is now sailing in uncharted waters. The Falcons have never been 11-0 before.
“I missed some layups tonight, and everyone was telling me that, and, hey, I knew I’d missed them,” said Dixon, who had 20 points and eight steals. “But I was still gonna shoot it and drive it if I had a chance.”
The first half didn’t win any awards. It was choppy and sloppy, and West took a 26-18 lead to the break mostly because the fifth-seeded War Eagles (7-6) shot 22 percent from the floor and because Davie post player Asiah Peterson got into foul trouble.
“You just have get through the first half to play the second half,” Davie coach Denny Key said. “The real ballgame started in the second half.”
Intensity picked up. West still led 37-33 with 1:30 left in the third quarter, but when Davie senior Amy Steller banked in a 3-pointer and followed it with a hard-nosed and-one, the War Eagles enjoyed a flurry. When Zaferatos put in back-to-back buckets to close the quarter, Davie led 43-40.
Then Haleigh Hatfield (14 points, nine rebounds), who had been kept quiet, started scoring, and West was in serious trouble.
Dixon was the life preserver that rescued the sinking Falcons.
“I had sat Nycieko down for a talk (after a missed breakaway layup),” McNeely said. “It was to remind her that she’d made big shots before and she was going to be big in this one.”
With West down 50-47 with 2:39 left, Davie was concerned about a possible lob to Steele on an inbounds play, and Dixon came free on the right side. Her 3 tied the game.
“They focused their defense on me in the second half and made it harder to get the ball,” Steele said. “But I have faith in my teammates.”
After another three-point play by Steller, West slid behind 54-50 with 1:30 left, but Miller found Dixon with a good pass, and Dixon calmly knocked down another right-side 3 to close the gap to a single point.
“We couldn’t get a rebound late, but if she misses that shot, we win this ballgame,” Key said.
Davie’s 18th turnover followed, and then West missed a layup but Davie couldn’t secure the rebound.
Another missed West layup led to Steele’s decisive points, and the pressure was on Davie, which had to travel fullcourt.
“Whoever got the ball had to just take it and go,” Key said. “Madison did a great job to get fouled. The free throws didn’t fall tonight, but that’s a hard spot for a ninth-grader.”
The bottom line was West overcame 20 turnovers to advance.
“We would’ve dropped out heads last season,” McNeely said. “Team-chemistry-wise this game showed how far we’ve come in a year.”
Davie will play Carson today at 3 p.m. for third place. West will play on the big stage vs. the Hornets at 6.
DAVIE (54) — Hatfield 14, Steller 14, Peterson 10, Zaferatos 7, Peebles 4, Wooten 3, Gadson 2, Jones.
WEST ROWAN (55) — Steele 24, Dixon 20, Hall 6, Sobataka 3, S. Miller 2, Q. Miller, James.
Davie 11 7 25 11 — 54
W. Rowan 14 12 14 15 — 55