LANDIS — As with any sustained stretch of success, West Rowan’s five-game win streak has required a little bit of luck go its way.
Like when the possession arrow points your way on a jump ball or a clean look at the buzzer is short, you’ll take it, as West did in a thrilling 67-65 win at South Rowan Tuesday night.
The Falcons did plenty of it on their own, hitting 11 three-pointers, six of them coming from Celexus Long. An 11-point second-half deficit didn’t derail the light-blue train from rolling down the NPC tracks.
“We’re confident,” said West coach Mike Gurley with a postlude. “I don’t know if I am. I’m looking for Junior Hairston or Donte Minter or KJ Sherrill to throw it to but they’re not there. So we make our adjustments and we feel fortunate to win.”
After a 1-8 start to the year, the Falcons have rebounded to take six of their last eight and moved into a two-way tie with Carson with second place in the league.
“We’ve just got to keep playing as a team,” Long said. “If it wasn’t for my team I wouldn’t have gotten those open looks.”
The third meeting between the two was the most contentious and physical as a technical foul was assessed to West due to post-play jawing. Shawn Spry’s free throw made it 43-32. An 8-0 run from West (7-10, 5-1) came before the end of the third and included consecutive treys from Long.
South’s Qwan Rhyne was fouled with 8.2 seconds left and went to the line for two in a 67-65 game. Rhyne misfired on both and Najee Tucker grabbed the rebound on the second miss. After West misfired on two freebies with four seconds to go, Tucker was there again, causing a jump ball with Josh Medlin to give it to West with 2.5 ticks left. Rhyne stole the inbounds pass and progressed to midcourt before firing a prayer that was off at the buzzer.
“When you’re young you’ve got to live with it some,” South coach Bryan Withers said. “But at this point we’re not young anymore. Three-fourths of the season is over. We’ve got to grow up.”
Long had a game-high 24 points and nailed a clutch trey to pull West within one at 60-59 with under two minutes to play.
Devin Parks’ hit a dash to the rim with 58 seconds left to put West up for keeps at 62-61. The Raiders (11-9, 4-4) turned it over on the following possession and Seth Martin drew a foul, hitting both free throws.
“It was a game you had to keep fighting hard in,” Long said. “You couldn’t get caught up in what was going on.”
Rhyne’s layup made it a one-point game again with 26 seconds left. Darius Gabriel hit two big free throws and Spry hurried downfloor for a quick two to pull the Raiders within 66-65 with 10.3 seconds left.
Martin offered 17 points for West.
Spry was the star for the Raiders with 20 points. Medlin offered 14.
A 27-all tie at halftime went South’s way when Medlin hit a two and a three for a 35-30 edge. Rhyne banked in a deuce as the Raiders were feeling it.
“My kids played hard, but we’re not executing,” Withers said. “We try to make plays for ourselves instead of making them for each other. That’s my biggest frustration.”
South held an 11-10 lead after a fairly quiet first quarter. Long hit back-to-back threes to push West ahead 16-11.
“South’s a good team and I’m just glad we were able to beat them,” Gurley said. “Shawn Spry can play and they got good size and good guards.”
WEST ROWAN (67) — Long 24, Martin 17, Tucker 9, Parks 9, Gabriel 6, Reddick 2, Gallagher, Hassard.
SOUTH ROWAN (65) — Spry 20, Medlin 14, Rhyne 9, Wesley 8 Goldston 7 Hill 5, Tyler 2.
W. Rowan 10 17 15 25 — 67
S. Rowan 11 16 20 18 — 65
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