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Prep Basketball: West Rowan boys 75, Lake Norman 72

By Mike London

Salisbury Post

CHINA GROVE — West Rowan used another one of its “Get Out of Jail Free” cards Monday night.

The Falcons hung on to beat Lake Norman, 75-72, for their fourth straight victory. But the last three — close wins against Mooresville, Carson and now the Wildcats — have left coach Mike Gurley feeling enough is enough.

“In every game it seems like we build a 10- or 12-point lead — tonight it was 17 — and we quit playing,” he said after West (12-2, 5-0 NPC) strengthened its hold on first place. “We leave the team concept. The average observer thinks that happens on the offensive end. But it’s on the defensive end that we stopped playing as a team. That has to change.”

West sophomore K.J. Sherrill sparked the offense with a season-best 25 points. And teammate K.P. Parks converted 5 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter. But this was one of those Chinese food victories — it left you hungry for more.

“I guess we had them and we stopped playing hard,” said Sherrill. “We thought we could just keep them down like that. Then they started driving and getting all those second shots and rebounds.”

It made for great drama but bad art. West led by 11 points at halftime and by 44-27 after Sherrill made a layup with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter. The lead was still 16 when Willie Sherrill kissed a layup off the glass with two minutes left in the period.

“We were doing OK,” Parks said.

But that’s when the Falcons’ defense began leaking like the Titanic. There was a driving layup by LN’s Laf McCain. A three-point play by do-it-all forward Mark Bowen. And another three-point play by sneaky-quick Alex Hayes. When teammate Alex Lemke penetrated for an easy two, the Wildcats had themselves a

10-1 run to close the quarter and had drawn within 54-47.

“If we want to be successful in the North Piedmont Conference,” Gurley said, “we can’t give away comfortable leads that we worked hard to get. We need to be extremely ornery about allowing them to score. Because the score is irrelevant — it’s still a

32-minute game. And it seems like we think it must be television and the other team’s gonna stop playing.”

Not teams like Lake Norman.

“These kids aren’t scared to come and play,” said LN coach Rich Tinucci.

Lake Norman inched within 59-58 on yet another three-point play, this one by Jay Little with 4:37 remaining. West answered with an 8-0 spurt fueled by K.J. Sherrill (two layups), temporarily repelling the charge.

“When it was crunch time,” he said, “that’s when we gave it our all.”

It took all the Falcons had to subdue the fiesty Wildcats. LN used putbacks by Bowen (team-high 23 points) and reserve center Nathan Bowers to cut its deficit to five points, then got another three-point play from Hayes to make it 70-67 with just over a minute to play.

“They made their run,” said Parks, one of four West scorers to crack double figures. “And we still won. No matter how bad we played, we still got the win. And that’s the main thing.”

This win wasn’t secured until West’s Kaleb Kimber knocked down a pair of free throws to close the scoring with 33 seconds to go. Lake Norman’s fate was sealed with a miss — two of them, actually — when Lemke overshot a 3-point attempt from the left side and Bowen bricked a follow-up banker as time expired.

“It’s been this way three times in a row now,” Gurley spewed afterward. “We’re not on the same page. And it’s about the team. It’s always about the T-E-A-M. The name on the front of the jersey, that’s what’s most important. That’s what we’ve got to focus on.”

lake norman (72) — Bowen 23, Hayes 16, Little 10, Bowers 8, Lemke 7, McCain 6, Campey 2.

west rowan (75) — K.Sherrill 25, Carpenter 12, Kimber 10, Parks 10, Martin 9, W.Sherrill 6, Smith 3, Charleston, Browning, Stricklin, Lyerly, Bradshaw, Kimbrough.

L. Norman 10 11 26 25 — 72

W. Rowan 21 11 22 21 — 75

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Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisburypost.com.

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