Prep Basketball: West Rowan girls 46, Northwest Cabarrus 45
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — Rachel Graham carried West Rowan in the first half, Brooke Taylor carried the fourth-quarter load, and everyone wanted to carry off Peyton Sawyer on their shoulders after she decided Wednesday’s NPC struggle with a free throw with no time left on the clock.
West survived visiting Northwest Cabarrus 46-45 in a game that will be disputed for a while.
With the score tied 45-45 with 4.5 seconds left — after both teams had squandered a thousand opportunities to take control — the Falcons (9-6, 3-3) had possession in their backcourt, and coach Bob Blake called timeout to talk things over.
“I thought he was going to tell me to try to get the ball to Brooke or Rachel for a 3,” Sawyer said with a smile. “I was gonna cry.”
Instead, Blake saved his school some Kleenex and maybe saved the Falcons’ season. His plan was to put the ball in Sawyer’s hands and hope she could attack the basket and make a shot or draw a foul. There might not be time to pass.
“What we couldn’t have was a turnover that could lose it,” Blake said. “We were OK with going to overtime.”
Sawyer got the ball in her hands, and the speeding bullet blew past halfcourt and sailed straight down the lane.
“But it wasn’t looking the way it was supposed to,” said Sawyer, who spotted congestion in the lane, where things were supposed to have been cleared out by cutting teammates.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, God, this isn’t gonna work.’ But I really wasn’t thinking, I was just playing.”
Two Trojans met Sawyer and cut her off. Liana Erickson, who is close to 6 feet tall and jumps well, appeared to roof Sawyer’s shot as time expired, but a whistle blew.
Two referees conferred briefly, and Sawyer was awarded two free throws.
Blake agreed with the call. “Peyton got hit on the arm on her way up,” he said. “The block — that came later.”
Northwest coach Daryl Crego was dismayed.
“Both teams were playing their hearts out, and that call’s 50-50 — it’s not like Liana grabbed her or anything — so let’s go to overtime and let the girls decide it.
“This game had playoff implications, and that’s why I’m so hot. Let these kids decide it, not a whistle.”
Sawyer still had to make a free throw. The pressure would have mounted severely had Sawyer missed her first shot, but she knocked it down cleanly.
“I knew as soon as it left my hand that I made it,” Sawyer said.
Blake cheerfully teased Sawyer after the game.
“What was I doing while Peyton was shooting that free throw?” Blake said with a grin. “Drawing up a play for overtime.”
Northwest was missing standout guard Callie Simpkins (illness) and Teal McLean (missed the bus), but little Britni Bowen compensated by raining 3s. She hit five of them and scored 19 points. Behind Bowen, Northwest turned an early eight-point deficit into a 28-25 halftime lead.
Rhonda Turner had 12 boards for the Falcons, and Graham scored 15 of her career-high 20 points in the first half.
“I just felt it tonight,” said Graham, who was averaging 8.3 points per game. “We came out stronger than usual on defense and that got my offense going.”
Northwest led 42-39 going to the fourth quarter but shot 1-for-11 the last eight minutes. Taylor scored six points in the fourth quarter, including the layup that tied the game 45-45 with 2:07 remaining.
NW CABARRUS (45) — Bowen 19, Erickson 8, Kiser 6, McClure 4, McCain 4, Brinkley 3, E. Simpkins 1, Hahn.
WEST rowan (46) — Graham 20, Taylor 10, Sawyer 7, Turner 7, Kraft 2, Cox, Foster, Stout, Adams.
NW Cabarrus 12 16 14 3 — 45
W. Rowan 18 7 12 7 — 46
Contact Mike London@salisburypost.com or 704-797-4259.