SPENCER — West Rowan’s previous visit to Spencer had featured a 37-point effort by Keshun Sherrill and a 14-point West victory.
Sherrill’s effort that night was a virtuoso performance of roundball beauty, but it was hard to find anything pretty about West’s 67-47 loss at North Rowan on Friday.
It was a bruiser, a grinder, a festival of fouls. There were 29 personals assessed prior to halftime. Everyone was in foul trouble, and the whistles slowed only a little after the break.
North Rowan’s experienced players — Oshon West, Malik Ford, T.J. Bates, Michael Connor and Michael Bowman — have been in every kind of game in every kind of venue — and that was an advantage.
“I thought North’s experience was the biggest thing,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “ As big as they are and as good as they are, what finally got to us was their experience.”
North received 17 points from Oshon West, who had 12 in the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers (1-2) blew it open.
Ford and Connor scored 13 points each. Bowman fueled North early and finished with 10. T.J. Bates was an effective passer and defender, and Shareef Walker provided a lift off the bench.
“Shareef came in the game and gave us some great defense,” West said.
North coach Andrew Mitchell is 52-9 the last two seasons, including a 1A state title, but this year’s 0-2 start in a high-powered tournament in Charlotte wasn’t really a shock.
His team was hungry for its first win, and Mitchell had accurately predicted what sort of game it would be.
“I told the guys going into this game to expect it rough and tough,” Mitchell said. “That’s exactly the game that we got.”
Bowman battled for eight points and blocked three shots in the first quarter. Celexus Long countered with five points for the Falcons, and North settled for a 15-12 lead.
“West Rowan played hard and scrappy,” West said. “We had to do the same thing.”
North enjoyed the key spurt of the game early in the second quarter when it turned a 16-14 lead into 22-14 with three quick buckets. Ford scored inside, and Connor and Bowman finished in transition off steals.
“We’re working on it, but we’re not a great shooting team,” Mitchell said. “What we do have is a lot of guys who are good in transition. We have to play fast on defense and create offense from defense.”
West doesn’t have a returner who averaged more than five points per game, so sustained offense is an adventure for Gurley’s team.
“North played excellent defense,” Gurley said. “Their 2-3 matchup gave us some trouble and when we did get good shots they didn’t fall. But that can happen when you have to work so darned hard to get a shot.”
North took a 32-21 halftime lead on a 3-pointer by Connor, and eased away in the third quarter, after West’s top scorer Daisean Reddick, who got 10 of his 14 points on free throws, went to the pine in foul trouble, and Ford powered down a massive, crowd-energizing dunk.
When Oshon West, who had been plagued by fouls in the first half, exploded early in the fourth quarter, it was all over. The senior made back-to-back 3s to push the lead to 57-34.
“Oshon showed his maturity as a player,” Mitchell said. “In years past, he may have been forcing up shots just to get his points. Now he realizes that he can score in bunches whenever the opportunity is there.”
NOTES: West’s Chris Hassard was the most serious casualty. He bit through his tongue and had to go to the hospital.
WEST ROWAN (47) — Reddick 14, Tucker 7, Long 7, Avery 6, Martin 5, Hassard 4, Gabriel 2, Blackwood 2, Gallagher, Hodzik, Linker, Wilson, Rayner.
NORTH ROWAN(67) — West 17, Connor 13, Ford 13, Bowman 10, Sanders 6, Bates 4, Walker 4, B. Nelson, D. Nelson, Bost, Ellis
W. Rowan 12 9 11 15 — 47
N. Rowan 15 17 17 18 — 67