Prep Basketball: South girls 56, West Rowan 54

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó Crawling on her belly like a reptile, South Rowan’s Molly Garrett slapped a loose ball out to teammate Nikki Graham, who buried a 3-pointer.
Credit Garrett with an assist and the hustle play of the century. Credit Graham for making huge shots as the Raiders rallied to beat West Rowan 56-54 on Monday.
It was a big NPC win for South (6-3, 4-2) and gave the Raiders the No. 2 seed for the Sam Moir Christmas Classic.
South got 18 points from Graham and 15 points, 12 boards and six blocks from Taylor May. Krista Haywood had nine points and five assists.Ayana Avery drilled 33 points for West (4-4, 2-3), which will be seeded fourth. Mila Simmons had 12 and Desire Cross scored nine, but only three Falcons scratched.
South didn’t have its head coach ó Jim Brooks is sitting out two after being ejected Friday at East Rowan ó and appeared to have no hope when it trailed 33-21 in the third quarter. At that point, it was South 21, Avery 21.
But assistants Laurie Corriher, Jarrod Smith and Bubba Morris held things together even after the Raiders shot 19 percent in the first half.
“The first half, we didn’t do a good job of boxing out, taking care of the basketball or making good passes,” Corriher said. “The second half, we stuck to the basics and played good, simple basketball. And Nikki Graham can shoot you back into a game in a hurry.”
South concentrated on stopping Avery, but it couldn’t.
“She’s awesome,” May said. “We defended her tight and she still made everything.”South chipped away at its deficit with the help of missed West layups, but it still trailed 46-39 with three minutes left.
With 2:15 on the clock, Graham hit a 3-pointer to pull South within 48-46. Avery answered with two free throws, but Garrett’s headlong dive gave Graham a chance to bury one more 3 ó and she did.
“When Nikki is on, she’s on,” May said. “She couldn’t quite find it for 31/2 quarters, but then, at the end, it was there.”
After May blocked a shot by Avery, she hit a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left to give South a 52-50 lead.
Baskets by May and Garrett gave South a 56-51 lead, but Avery nailed her fifth 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left.
South missed two free throws, but Avery’s desperation 3 from halfcourt that would have won it for the Falcons, bounced off the iron.
“Just disappointing,” West coach Erich Epps said. “My girls tried hard, but we didn’t have anyone step up and make layups. Then South hit all the big shots at the end. Nikki and Taylor hit three huge 3s.”
south rowan (56) ó Graham 18, May 15, K. Haywood 9, Garrett 6, Goins 4, Morrow 4, Roberts, Sides.
west rowan (54) ó Avery 33, Simmons 12, Cross 9, Dutton, Calloway, Parker, Watkins, Gillespie, Holloway, Moose, Baucom.S. Rowan 7 14 10 25 ó 56
W. Rowan 9 17 13 15 ó 54