MT. ULLA — West Rowan’s girls will go into the Christmas tournament unbeaten for the first time since 2003 and they are 10-0 for the first time in school history.
“We got a goal tonight,” West coach Todd McNeely. “But this just means one part of our season is over and another part starts now.”
West’s road to 10-0 was bumpier than expected. South Rowan will be the lowest-seeded team in the Moir Classic while West will be No. 1, but the Raiders (3-7) took it to the Falcons for long stretches of Friday’s 58-44 West win.
“We played hard for 26 minutes Thursday and we went hard for 28 tonight, so we found another two minutes,” South coach Jarrod Smith said. “We’re getting better, but we’ve still got to find all 32.”
Cassidy Chipman scored 21 for the Raiders (3-7, 0-2 NPC). Avery Locklear scored 16.
West (2-0 NPC)got double-digit points from foul-plagued Shay Steele (15), Nycieko Dixon (15) and Khaila Hall (13). Alison Sobataka went 6-for-6 at the foul line, and the Miller sisters, Quanice and Shanice, combined for 12 rebounds.
Had South shot free throws like Sobataka, the Raiders would’ve pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the world. But they made only half of their 32 foul shots.
If we make free throws, we win the ballgame,” Smith said.
Early on, it appeared that the 6-foot-2 Steele would break every record in the book. By the end of the first quarter, she had 11 points and four blocks.
South trailed 26-14 midway through the second quarter, but when Steele sat down for the final three minutes of the half with foul trouble, the Raiders pulled within 31-24 by halftime.
“I was very surprised,” Quanice Miller said. “I figured we’d just blow South out in the first quarter, but you have to give them credit. They showed up — and showed out.”
When Locklear and Chipman hit back-to-back 3s in the third quarter, West’s lead was down to 37-36. Caroline Hubbard, who was a terror on defense, missed two free throws that could’ve given the Raiders the lead.
A flurry of Sobataka free throws pushed West back ahead by a half-dozen, but the Falcons’ whistle troubles only got deeper, with Sobataka and the Millers also sliding into foul trouble,
When Steele fouled out with 7:23 remaining, South had a very real chance to pull the game out.
“We were doing a good job on the boards even when Shay was in there,” Smith said. “You get her and Sobataka in foul trouble, you should beat West.”
Dixon and Hall, a freshman, kept the Falcons from getting beat.
Hall’s 3-pointer for a 46-39 lead was just huge, and her swooping steal and layin for a 51-42 lead with 2:50 remaining was a backbreaker for the Raiders.
Right after Hall’s hoop, backup post player Elizabeth Freeze’s stickback pushed West’s lead back to 11 points.
“I’m glad that wins don’t come with pictures because this was an ugly one for the most part,” McNeely said. “I think the positive for us was that we won on a night when everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We didn’t shoot well. We had 13 turnovers. We had foul trouble, but we still overcame it all. When it came down to it, Khaila made the plays we had to have.”
South enthusiastically played at the furious pace the Falcons love. The Raiders made 23 turnovers, but their hustle kept them close.
“South is so young, you know they’ll be up and down some,” McNeely said. “But they’re starting to mature.”
Quanice Miller breathed a sigh of relief.
“We had to listen to our coaches and play as a team,” she said. “If we hadn’t, we would’ve gotten beat.”
S. ROWAN (44) — Chipman 21, Locklear 16, McClendon 3, Hubbard 2, Bost 2, Coley, Honeycutt, Davis, Stamey.
W. ROWAN (58) — Steele 15, Dixon 15, Hall 13, Sobataka 6, Q. Miller 4, S. Miller 3, Freeze 2, James, Cross.
S. Rowan 14 10 13 7 — 44
W. Rowan 18 9 20 14 — 51