Prep Basketball: West Iredell boys 67, East Rowan 57
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó When you wear bright gold shoes instead of the black or dark green ones sported by your teammates, you’d better be good.
West Iredell junior Zach Follrod lived up to his blinding footwear on Friday, shooting a blistering 7-for-8 in the first half and propelling the Warriors to a 67-57 win at East Rowan in the NPC opener for both teams.
The 6-foot-3 Follrod finished with 22 points, while 6-6 junior post man Matt Harris scored 20 points and yanked down 11 second-half rebounds.
East sophomore guard Cole Honeycutt scored a career-high 23 points to give East (2-4) a chance, but the Mustangs couldn’t overcome an awful start. It was 11-2 before they knew what hit them.
“Maybe we were too loose at the start,” Honeycutt said. “We weren’t focused, weren’t aggressive, and they started out the game executing everything perfectly.”
When Follrod hit two free throws with 2:52 left in first quarter, the Warriors (2-4) led 17-4. That’s where East bottomed out.
“But we’re not a team that can spot anyone a big lead,” East coach Jim Lankford said. “We’ve got to come ready to slug it out from the very start, and West Iredell came out and punched us in the mouth right away and we didn’t hit back. They were moving the ball so well they were toying with us. They were baiting us, then hitting the open man.”
Follrod and Harris combined for 18 points in the first quarter, and the Warriors led 22-8.
Honeycutt hit two 3s in the second quarter, but West Iredell was in command at halftime. East shot 33 percent from the floor in the first half and trailed 38-23 at the break.
The only good news for East was Harris was saddled with three fouls by halftime. The Warriors subtracted height when he sat, but they weathered a spirited third-quarter run by the Mustangs with muscle and tenacity.
“The third quarter has been the challenge for us all year,” West Iredell coach Benjamin Johnson said. “We have had a hard time matching our first quarter intensity in the third quarter. Tonight, we were able to fight through it.”
East began the second half with back-to-back steals by guard Phillip Ajayi. Ajayi finished one fastbreak and Brian Grohman (10 points) got a stickback off the other one.
The lead was down to 11, East’s student section was going crazy, and Johnson was pleading for a timeout.
“Second half,” Honeycutt said. “We got after it.”
East kept coming, slicing the deficit to 38-34 on a Honeycutt 3-pointer, then climbing within 38-36 on Riley Weber’s inside bucket.
Follrod finally stopped East’s 13-0 run with two free throws. Then the Mustangs ran out of gas. Hasty outside shots clanged off iron, and they didn’t score during the final 2:53 of the third quarter.
“East has great shooters,” Johnson said. “But after they made that run, we were able to get a hand in their faces and challenge shots better.”
East still had a chance, down 50-42 with 5:53 left to play, but Follrod and Hunter Blohm nailed back-to-back 3s to put the game away.
Omar Gittens had a quiet, scoreless night for East, while Ajayi went cold and finished with 10 points on 5-for-16 shooting. Rashawn Joshua had eight rebounds, while Weber pulled down seven.
Preston Troutman nailed two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but the bottom line was a disappointing loss for the Mustangs, who had won their previous two outings.
For West Iredell, the game provided a huge lift.
“A conference game meant a fresh start,” Johnson said. “We were back to 0-0.”
west iredell (67) ó Follrod 22, Harris 20, K. Gray 7, J. Gray 5, Stevenson 4, Alford 4, Blohm 3, Davidson 2, Scott, Summers.
east rowan (57) ó Honeycutt 23, Grohman 10, Ajayi 10, Troutman 6, Weber 5, Joshua 3, Watkins, O. Gittens, H. Gittens, Driver.
W. Iredell 22 16 6 23 ó 67
E. Rowan 8 15 13 21 ó 57