Prep Basketball: West Rowan boys 59, Mooersville 45

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 12, 2007

By Bill Kiser

Salisbury Post

MOORESVILLE — To head coach Mike Gurley’s annoyance, West Rowan has made blowing big leads almost look like a habit.

The Falcons were on the verge of doing it again Friday night during their 59-45 win over Mooresville, but the Blue Devils gave them some unexpected help in the closing minutes.

K.J. Sherrill scored a game-high 17 points and Jamel Carpenter added 15 for West Rowan (14-2, 7-0), which won its sixth straight game — three coming in the last five days — and remained undefeated atop the North Piedmont Conference.

It was also the Falcons’ largest margin of victory over a conference opponent this season — their previous high was a 12-point win over West Iredell — and was just the second time in seven league games that they closed with a double-digit margin.

That nearly didn’t happen, however, as the Blue Devils

(7-10, 3-4) — who had rallied to knock off conference favorite Northwest Cabarrus at home before Christmas break and played West to a six-point loss in Mt. Ulla 11 days earlier — began making a game of it in the fourth quarter.

“There’s an ebb and flow that comes to the game,” Gurley said. “Our kids are learning that. … But you’ve got to give Mooresville credit for making that run at the end. We knew they weren’t going to quit.”

West Rowan had begun pulling away in the second half, turning what had been a 30-25 margin at the halftime break into an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

The Falcons went ahead 50-32 with 4:39 remaining on a Kevin Parks free throw, only to see Mooresville go on a 11-4 run, with reserve forward Jeremy Huntley’s runner along the baseline with 1:44 left pulling the Blue Devils within 54-43.

But Mooresville — which had already committed 12 fouls in the half to put West in the two-shot bonus — saw reserve guard Matt Millsaps get called for a touch foul on Carpenter with 1:21 left, followed by Blue Devils head coach Mick Micklow picking up two quick technical fouls and an ejection from the game for arguing the call.

The resulting shift — Carpenter hit 5-of-6 from the free-throw line — put momentum squarely back on the Falcons’ side.

“That was the final nail in the coffin,” Gurley said. “I felt we were still going to win it, but they had started to come back a little bit and had cut out lead down some. But (the free throws) definitely took any chance they had of winning it away.”

Mooresville had its chances in the first half as well. While the Blue Devils never led during Friday’s game, they did manage to tie the score twice — at 9-9 on Huntley’s three-point play with 28 seconds left in the first quarter and at 19-19 on Gabe Mercer’s short jumper with 4:02 remaining in the second quarter.

That came despite leading scorer Lamario Johnson being held to just four points (none in the first half) and Mooresville’s starters combining for just eight first-half points and 19 for the game.

The Blue Devils’ bench, however, took up much of the slack. Huntley finished with 15 points, and his fellow reserves combined for 11 points.

“We did a good job of moving our defenses, giving them a different look here and there,” Gurley said.

“We really wanted to come here tonight and go 3-0 (for the week). We’ve got a bunch of tough games coming up, and nearly all of them are on the road. If we want to be the champions, we’re going to have to gut it out.”