Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 7, 2013
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan battled league leader Statesville toe to toe all game long but had no response in the final three minutes Wednesday night.
Tied at 51 with 3:05 left, the Greyhounds went on an 11-2 run when it counted and held off West 64-55 to clinch their third consecutive North Piedmont Conference regular season title.
The clinching plays for the Hounds (10-0, 16-3) came from Justin Daniels with a tip in and free throw; from Josh Gaither with a long three from the corner; and finally another old fashioned three point play from Jaquan Warren with just over a minute left.
“I am glad we were able to finish strong,” Statesville Coach Sonny Schofield said. “We struggled some offensively during the game but we were able to get the baskets when we really needed the baskets.”
Up until the final surge by Statesville, the Falcons (6-3, 8-12) seemed to be making all the right moves and Coach Mike Gurley seemed to be pulling the right strings.
Going with a smaller, quicker lineup most of the night to try and match-up better with the Greyhounds, West got outstanding efforts from sophomore Celexius Long with his slashing drives and junior Seth Martin with his long range bombs. Daisean Reddick and Najee Tucker provided some inside muscle and scoring but in the end they couldn’t keep the high flying Greyhounds off the boards.
“We were taking a few things away from them here and there,” Gurley said. “but where they finally got us was on second shots. There were some good plays by them down the stretch but my guys played their heinies off”
The game was tightly contested throughout with West trailing 30-29 at the break. Long led the effort with 11 points but also picked up three first half fouls.
Martin scored two quick baskets for West in the third quarter then Reddick scored off a steal and Devin Parks hit a jumper. Just like that, West had a 38-34 lead at 4:15 of the third quarter and had the momentum. But Statesville grabbed it right back with an 8-0 run thanks to a pair of long three’s by Gaither and Marquis Willis and led 44-40 heading into the fourth period.
West seemed to be reeling when they fell behind 49-42 early in the fourth but they battled back thanks to a strange sequence of calls. Long drove inside and collided with a defender in the lane. The call was a blocking foul and two shots for Long. The officials then called a technical on the Greyhound bench for what they thought was a protest.
Long went to the line for three shots, hit two of them and West had the ball out of bounds. Martin promptly drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to make the score 49-47 at 5:48 to play.
Just over a minute later Long hit two more free throws to knot the score at 51-51 and set the stage for Statesville’s last run.
“We really needed a challenge like this to teach us how to fight through tough situations,” Scholfield said.”West Rowan had a good game plan but I am glad we secured the victory.”
Schofield noted his team is now the first in school history to win three straight NPC titles.
Gaither and Warren topped the Greyhound scoring with 16 points each with Borders adding 11.
For West, Long led the way with 16 despite foul problems, Martin scored 15 and Parks added 11 inside.
“I am proud of my guys for hanging in there, “Gurley said of their bid for second place. “It was just one of those games.”
STATESVILLE (64) — Gaither 16, Warren 16, Borders 11, Daniels 9, Willis 7, J. Williams 5, Murdo k, M. Williams.2,
WEST ROWAN (55) — Long 16, Martin 15, Parks 11, Reddick 5, Tucker 4, Phillips 2, Gabriel 2, Blackwood, Morrison.
Statesville 18 12 14 20 — 64
W. Rowan 15 14 11 15 — 55