4th quarter separates Cox Mill from West
MT. ULLA — “Believe or leave.”
Cox Mill has the saying stamped on the back of their shirts and the team plays ball by that motto.
The Chargers put that mantra to work Wednesday night to ignite a furious fourth-quarter comeback to stun West Rowan on the road, 68-63, notching an all-important SPC victory in the process.
“Wow, wow,” Cox Mill coach Jody Barbee said after catching his breath. “All I can say is that we were asleep the first three quarters and decided the finally play in the fourth. We decided to wake up and play basketball in the fourth quarter and out-scored them 31-12.
“We have a little saying — ‘believe or leave’ — and that’s our motto,” he continued. “They have to believe in themselves not to get up. We fought back from 15 points before and won by 10. It was the same thing tonight. They attacked the rim, made the shots, rebounded the basketball, started making free throws and got ever 50-50 ball out there.
“They believed in themselves and that was the biggest thing.”
The mantra was put to the test early on as the upset-minded Falcons came out firing in a battle of second-place teams.
West scored the final eight points of the opening frame, punctuated by a Celexus Long 3-pointer in the corner at the buzzer after a scramble for the loose ball, to give the Falcons a 17-10 advantage.
West rode the hot shooting of an unlikely candidate — junior guard Jay Wood — to a commanding 34-18 lead in the second. Wood highlighted the 17-8 run with back-to-back-to-back treys, pumping his fists after his third shot swished.
That Falcons were riding high, taking a 15-point lead (38-23) into the locker room.
But the Chargers made their first charge to open the third quarter, reeling off 11 of the first 12 to cut the deficit down to five at 39-34.
West struck back and pushed the lead back out to 51-37 as Seth Martin beat the third-quarter buzzer with a corner triple.
Cox Mill’s Matt Morgan opened the fourth with a long 3-pointer from the top of the key as the Chargers finally began playing by the motto they live by.
Cox Mill slowly chipped away, cutting the deficit down to eight (59-51) on another Morgan trey.
After a West free throw, the Chargers scored the next 17 points in a row to grab a 68-60 lead they would not give up.
“I told the team that we needed to ‘believe or leave,’ to keep fighting,” Morgan, who scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth, said. “I believed in us that we were going to turn it around, and we did.”
“Morgan’s first 3-pointer got us going in the fourth quarter,” Barbee added. “There wasn’t one certain play that keyed the fourth quarter, it was just the overall effort; the kids just decided they wanted to play basketball in the fourth. You could see the difference in our energy level. Our energy came up 20 notches and I think that was the difference in the game.”
As for the Falcons, coach Mike Gurley believes the loss can benefit his team down the road.
“Heart, desire and effort for us was there,” he said. “We just didn’t execute on some plays in the fourth quarter, and it snowballed from there.
“I think down the road, this game is really going to benefit us,” Gurley added. “When you lose a game that you give that much effort and desire, you tend to come back to it.
“If it hurts, it’s going to help.”
COX MILL (68) — Morgan 25, Smith 13, M. Johnson 9, Earl 9, D. Johnson 4, Jones 3, Baptiste 3, Rhodes 2, Probert, Rickard, Goude.
WEST ROWAN (63) — Long 14, Tucker 11, Martin 10, Wood 9, Hassard 9, Weeks 7, Reddick 3, Caldwell, Phillips, Valle, Joseph.
Cox Mill 10 13 14 31 — 68
W. Rowan 17 21 13 12 — 63