MOUNT ULLA — The getting-to-know-you-period has come and gone, but quite obviously West Rowan has not.
The Falcons launched post-season play Monday night with an 81-31 wipeout win against visiting West Iredell in their NPC tournament opener.
“We played well,” coach Mike Gurley said after second-seeeded West (12-12) earned a second-round date with Carson. “The other night they really hit us in the jaw on Stamey Farm Road. We were more fortunate tonight. We shot the ball well early.”
They shot it well enough to jump to a 14-2 lead in the opening five minutes. “We just came out working hard and playing as a team,” sophomore Celexus Long said. “We kew what was at stake and we were ready.”
Long contributed 10 points and was one of three Falcons to reach double figures. Junior Devin Parks had a game-high 18 and Najee Tucker added 11.
“This is the tournament ,” Parks said. “This is the time to get focused and we did.”
A lot has changed since West was staring down the barrel of a 1-8 start. Gradually the Falcons found a common denominator and learned to play as a cohesive — if somewhat chaotic —unit. “We’ve got the chemistry going now,” Parks said. “It’s up and guys are knocking down shots.”
Gurley thought West’s 19-3 first-quarter provided a good example.
“We created some transition from our zone press,” he said. “We made some really sharp passes early. I think of our first five possessions, four of them were off assists. You don’t see that a lot at the high school level. They really set each other up and got into a good flow.”
West Iredell (2-19), the seventh-seeded underdog, bit back in the second period but hardly made a mark. It was 20-9 before Tucker stole the ball near midcourt and sliced in for a fastbreak layup, giving the Falcons their first basket of the quarter with three minutes remaining in the half.
“We kind of went into a funk,” Gurley said, “but we kept playing hard. Then in the second half we came out with the same approach.”
The Falcons surged to a 25-point lead when Darius Gabriel hit a shot from the right baseline halftway through the third quarter. The margin ballooned to 30 when Parks drained a 3-pointer early in the fourth period and reached 71-30 on super-sub Jack Gallagher’s eight-foot set shot with 2:20 to play.
“We got it going again in the fourth,” Parks said with a broad, post-game smile. “We even got it going for our one senior — Jack Gallagher. We opened it up and he put one down for us.”
Gurley was equally impressed with Gallagher’s last-minute assist on M.J. Rayner’s fastbreak bucket. “That shows you that he understands his role,” the coach said. “That’s why he’s still playing.”
WEST IREDELL (31) —Johnson 13, Sells 4,Teasley 4, Weaver 2, David 2, Harrison 2, Davidson 2, Boggs 1, Dalton 1.
WEST ROWAN (81) — Parks 18, Tucker 11, Long 10, Phillips 8, Martin 7, Hassard 7, Reddick 6, Gabriel 5, Rayner 4, Blackwood 3, Gallagher 2,
W. Iredell 3 11 10 7 — 31
W. Rowan 19 13 19 30 — 81
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