STATESVILLE — It appears the West Rowan girls basketball team is through window shopping and ready to make a purchase.
The Falcons opened the season with eight straight non-league victories, then kicked off their NPC with a lopsided win Tuesday night.
“Goal No. 1 was to try to go into the Christmas Tournament undefeated,” coach Todd McNeely reportedly told hs team before West steamrolled host Statesville, 64-19. “And we’re almost there. Now comes the conference — and everybody’s zero-zero. Everything we’ve done before today doesn’t really matter.”
The Falcons responded with an overwhelming performance. Their defense forced 31 turnovers and limited the Lady Hounds (0-5, 0-1) to six field goals. And their offense began and ended with Shay Steele, the 6-foot-2 senior who poured in a career-high 38 points.
“I really didn’t think about that too much,” she said. “I was just focused on driving to the basket, working on penetration.”
After six minutes the score was Steele 10, Statesville 0. And after the long-armed post player reeled in a rebound and hit a putback early in the second period, West was ahead 20-0.
“Her length, that’s what bothered my girls most of all,” said first-year SHS coach Greg Stewart. “She didn’t even have to jump on some of those shots. You’ve got to get a lot of help defending her.”
McNeely also praised the work of junior guard Nycieko Dixon, who finished with 13 points. Included were a couple of 3-pointers, including a long ball from the right corner that gave West a 51-13 lead with 5:15 to play.
“Nycieko has matured over the last couple years,” he said. “She’s becoming the great player I knew she would be. She’s got her head in the game. She’s talking to the other players. She’s a great leader. And she’s just going to continue to get better.”
Dixon, an all-county and all-conference player last season, is averaging 13.4 points-per-game. “Yeah, but it’s harder this year,” she noted. “We’ve got more stars, more people that can play. The way we’re set up, anybody can score.”
That bodes well for the rest of the conference season and beyond. “We just came into the conference knowing we had a job to do,” Steele said. “It’s like starting all over. So we decided not to let them hang around.”
Statesville’s first basket came when Shamya Carr made a steal and drove in for a layup with 3:10 remaining in the first half. Steele had 21 points at halftime, sank three layups in the third period and then went off for 11 fourth-quarter points.
“I told her this was her one opportunity to go for a record,” McNeely said. “That’s the reason she played so much.”
Added Dixon: “When you’ve got a player like Shay attacking the rack on every play, that’s like giving everyone else a rest so we can defend better.”
WEST ROWAN (64) — Steele 38, Dixon 13, Hall 5, Sobatako 3, S.Miller 2, James 2, Q.Miller 1, Cross, Freeze, Alessandrini, Edwards, Gibbons
STATESVILLE (19) — Carr 6, Elliot 5, Hairston 4, Parson 2, Arnette 1, Bagley 1.
W. Rowan 13 18 15 18 — 64
Statesville 0 7 3 9 — 19