OLIN — A month ago they were next year’s team, a work-in-progress with an eye on the future.
Today the West Rowan boys basketball team is fighting for second place in the NPC. Anyone surprised?
“Nah,” forward Seth Martin said Friday night, moments after the Falcons bested host North Iredell 65-51. “We’ve figured it out. We’ve learned to play as a team. We know when to pass the ball and when to shoot it.”
Martin made some point-on decisions for third-place West (9-12, 7-3), knocking down six 3-pointers and scoring 20 points — all in the first three quarters.
“He’s playing with confidence,” said coach Mike Gurley. “Seth has worked hard. He worked hard in the off-season. He worked hard in the pre-season. He prepared for this moment. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s playing this well.”
Martin caught everyone’s attention, including North coach Brian Cantrell.
“When you look at West in the paper, you realize when he scores they usually win,” he said. “He’s a great shooter.”
West converted 10 three-point attempts, including three by sophomore Celexus Long in the second half. The first connected midway through the third quarter and gave the Falcons a 37-30 lead. Midway through the fourth his drained another to provide a 50-43 edge. He last long ball was a money-in-the-bank jumper from the top of the key that made it 53-45 with 3:45 remaining.
“They’re always telling me that I have the shot, take it,” Long said after sinking six of six free throws in the last 1:22 and finishing with 18 points. “If not, swing the ball around and get it to someone who is open.”
Teammate Daisean Reddick helped West seal the deal with 11 fourth-quarter points. He contributed 14 points, the last two on a jailbreak layup that put WR ahead by 10.
“We had to play real good defense in the last four minutes,” Reddick said. “That’s where that offense came from.”
West broke open a close game with a 25-point fourth quarter. A key factor was the defensive work the Falcons did against North’s 6-foot-5 Brantley Chambers. The sophomore post player scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the first half for the Raiders (8-12, 4-6), but was glaringly quiet in the second half.
“It was a fundamental change in how we guarded the post,” Gurley said. “We were trying to front and weren’t getting real good help side. So we made an adjustment — our guard pressure got better at taking away sight lines.”
Cantrell said that North’s problem was bigger than Chambers. “We lost our focus,” he said. “Our gameplan unraveled in the second half and we couldn’t get it back. West was doing what it’s good at — transition and taking the ball to the basket.”
Winning, something the Falcons have done seven times in their last nine outings. Victories against Carson on Monday and West Iredell on Wednesday would give them a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NPC tournament. “We’ve learned how to win,” Gurley said. “Now we get to go test that.”
WEST ROWAN (65) — Martin 20, Long 18, Reddick 14, Tucker 8, Parks 4, Morrison 1, Blackwood, Gabriel, Gallagher, Hassard, Phillips.
NORTH IREDELL (51) —Chambers 16, Mullins 9, Colvin 8, Ruppe 5, Ely 4, Pruitt 3, Nolen 2, Hartness 2, Grinton 2.
W. Rowan 13 11 16 25 — 65
N. Iredell 9 13 15 14 — 51
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