By Mike London
STATESVILLE ó West Rowan senior Olivia Izze threw herself to the floor in pursuit of a loose ball with 20 seconds left in a hopeless game, so it wasn’t like the Falcons didn’t try.
But West didn’t have it on Wednesday and got mauled by top-seeded Statesville 50-31 in an NPC tournament semifinal.
It was worse than it sounds. West needed an 8-0 run at the end of the game to lose by 19 on the Greyhounds’ home floor.
“The shots weren’t falling for anybody,” Izze said. “And we were playing just an awesome team.”
West was held below 40 points for the first time this season. The fifth-seeded Falcons (16-10) came in on a roll and justifiably feeling good about a late-season surge, but it was over early. When Statesville (24-2) turned it up defensively in the second quarter, it went to a level where few teams can go, and West was blown away.
Most coaches go to their bench for offense, but Statesville coach Todd Jones kept bringing in fresh people who made his defense tougher and tougher. West shot 0-for-13 in the second quarter while turning it over 10 times and trailed 30-13 at halftime.
“It was the first time we’ve played Statesville that I’ve sat there not knowing what to do,” West coach Erich Epps said. “There wasn’t anything to do. We played poorly, they played well, and they are very good. East Rowan and Lake Norman will play tomorrow, and those are both fine teams, but they’re playing to see who will be runner-up. No one is going to beat Statesville here.”
Lake Norman beat Statesville in the 2007 league tourney, but the Greyhounds, who have tremendous talent in their sophomore and junior classes, have run the table in the NPC regular season two straight years.
West senior Brooke Taylor and junior Peyton Sawyer were on the West team that beat Statesville 55-52 for the 2006 tournament championship. Since that game, the Greyhounds, led by highly recruited junior point guard Keyrra Gillespie, have taken over.
Statesville’s victory over West on Wednesday was its sixth straight double-digit victory in the series, and the Greyhounds have shipped West home from the last two NPC tournaments.
West trailed 9-2 in a hurry, but Taylor led a comeback that tied the game at 11-11 after a quarter.
But Statesville’s second quarter was devastating, especially a furious 7-0 run in the opening 40 seconds.
“The first quarter, Statesville did us a favor playing zone,” Epps said. “But the second quarter they went man-to-man and we didn’t set screens. When we got shots, we missed layups. It was really a one-quarter deal, but they outscored us 19-2 in the second quarter, and that was it.”
West’s only points in the quarter were two free throws by Taylor.
“We concentrated on stopping Taylor and (Ayana) Avery, and we did a good job on them,” Statesville coach Todd Jones said. “Shameka Harvey did a heck of a good job.”
West didn’t make a basket between Avery’s steal and layup for an 11-9 lead with 1:43 left in the first quarter and Sawyer’s layup off a steal with 6:22 left in the third that made it 31-15. That’s 11 minutes, 21 seconds without a field goal, and the buckets by Avery and Sawyer obviously didn’t come from the set offense.
“I’ve been getting on the girls about being lackadaisical in the first half, and we really wanted to change that,” Jones said. “You get off to a slow start in the state playoffs, and you’ll get worn out very quickly.
Jones was concerned about West’s recent streak, especially its romp over fourth-seeded North Iredell, but his team took care of business.
“West has been the NPC’s most improved team,” Jones said. “Sure, I was worried. I felt like we were playing the hottest team in the league.”
Well, maybe the second-hottest.
West, which got 10 boards from Katie Cox, can prepare for its trip to SPC champion Concord in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
“We won’t get down, we’ll stay positive and we’ll keep pushing,” Izze said. “There are still games left.”
West Rowan (31) ó Avery 8, Taylor 8, Sawyer 4, Cox 4, Izze 2, Cuthbertson 2, Calloway 2, Sherrill 1, Dutton, Moose, Foster, Simmons.statesville (50) ó Shan. Harvey 12, Parker 8, Gillespie 8, Hickmon 7, Williams 6, Sham. Harvey 6, Bowers 2, Bailey 1, Daywalt, Henderson, Brown. W. Rowan 11 2 5 13 ó 31
Statesville 11 19 14 6 ó 50n
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or email@example.com.