NPC Boys Championship: Emotions run high during West’s loss
By Bret Strelow
STATESVILLE ó The start of the fourth quarter featured nearly as much excitement as the final seconds, and a buzzer-beater decided Lake Norman’s 56-54 win against West Rowan in the championship game of the NPC tournament.
West’s Kaleb Kimber opened the last quarter by catching a pass in the left corner, driving baseline against the Wildcats’ zone and throwing down a one-handed dunk. Lake Norman’s Reggie Price answered by penetrating through a vacant lane and soaring for the second slam in a span of 20 seconds.
An overflow crowd filled West Iredell’s gym for a tiebreaking game that included extreme swings and emotional outbursts. Matt Eller delivered the knockout punch by sinking a go-ahead jumper with one second left.
“It’s tough,” West Rowan starter Jon Crucitti said, “but it’s one of those things that we can regroup and get focused for what needs to be taken care of next week so we don’t have to go through these feelings again.”
Lake Norman edged West Rowan in the first regular-season meeting, and the Falcons earned a share of the NPC title because they prevailed 70-47 at home on Jan. 21.
West jumped ahead 12-4 on Friday, but the Wildcats led by as many as nine points late in the first half. Tempers flared early in the third quarter as Crucitti grabbed a defensive rebound and an elbow hit the face of Eller, who crumpled to the floor.
Officials stopped play once West missed a shot at the other end, and Eller eventually rose to his feet. He charged toward midcourt and yelled loudly as he approached a huddle of Falcons. West supporters howled that Eller’s action merited an ejection.
Order was restored, and a group of five from each team returned to the court. Officials then had to step in and separate a mass of players before Lake Norman inbounded the ball.
No fouls were called, and the game-closing jumper left Eller with the last word. He looked toward West’s student section as the final buzzer sounded and used two hands to pull the upper half of his uniform away from his chest.
“To lose on a game-winning shot is always tough,” West senior K.J. Sherrill said. “It was a big crowd, and we just tried to play through it and play like it was the last game we were going to play.”
It wasn’t, of course ó the Falcons will welcome A.L. Brown to Mount Ulla next week for a first-round playoff game.
West coach Mike Gurley cited “The Waterboy” and drew laughter from the people around him as he mumbled through his best Farmer Fran impression.
“We live to play another day,” he said. “We live to play another day.”
The 3rd annual County-wide Playwriting Competition will be held at 7 p.m., this Friday and Saturday, at the Salisbury High... read more