West boys rally in final three minutes
MT. ULLA — Everything you heard about Davie boys basketball in the offseason was bad news.
Davie had five starters eligible to return from a powerful team, but none of them came back.
Still, the War Eagles, who are led now by last year’s sixth man Peyton Sell, have a season to play, and they’re going to play it. They took West Rowan to the wire in Monday’s opener before losing 72-68.
Davie had an eight-point lead with three minutes to play, but finally wilted under the pressure applied by the experienced Falcons, who have all five starters back.
“There was a lot in the media about how Davie had lost this and lost that,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “But they’ve still got Mike Absher coaching them and they’ve still got some-high-character kids.”
Najee Tucker scored 19 to lead the Falcons. Seth Martin had 17.
Sell and Blaise Bennett scored 14 each for the War Eagles.
West led just 17-14 after a quarter, a shock to fans and the Falcons.
“Davie was staying right with us, and I don’t think our guys could believe it,” Gurley said. “And I think at that point our demeanor got a little panicky.”
Davie, small, young and not overly fast, is going to be a “Hoosiers” rerun every time it takes the floor. Absher kept it simple by stressing just two things in his pregame chalktalk: keep West off the glass and handle West’s pressure.
Davie did those things in the first half, and with 13 seconds to go in the half, Absher stood up and yelled “Eagle.”
“I called a play, we ran it, we executed it, and the freshman (Heath Slabach) buried it,” Absher said.
Slabach’s 3-pointer gave the War Eagles a 35-34 lead at the break.
West pushed ahead by six in the third quarter when Celexus Long set up Martin for a 3-pointer, but Davie fought back again.
A sweet bounce pass by Davie’s Tre Redmond found Nic Starnes for a layup, and Sell beat the press to create a layup for Bennett, and suddenly Davie had a lead. That lead peaked at 61-53 with just over three minutes left.
“We put our best defensive team on the floor, and we were able to get some turnovers,” Gurley said. Our freshman (Kortez Weeks) made a lot of good plays.”
Weeks made the pass to Daisean Reddick that cut Davie’s lead to 68-67 with 30 seconds left, and Weeks made a free throw to tie the score.
Weeks snared the offensive rebound and made the pass to Chris Hassard for the layup that put West up 70-68.
Then Long calmly made two free throws to seal it.
“We had control, but we just couldn’t handle their press at the end,” Absher said. “We’ve only got one guy who’s been in heated situations like that.”
DAVIE (68) — Sell 14, Bennett 14, Starnes 7, Slabach 6, Poole 6, McDaniel 5, Dalton 5, Redmond 4, Colamarino 4, Cunningham 1.
WEST (72) — Tucker 19, Martin 17, Long 10, Reddick 9, Parks 8, Hassard 6, Quarles 2, Weeks 1, Phillips, Joseph.
Davie 14 21 13 20 — 68
West 17 17 16 22 — 72