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MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan’s girls opened the NPC tournament with a slam dunk Monday night.
Not one of those picturesque, film-at-11 slam dunks, mind you. The Falcons’ 78-43 win against visiting Statesville was choppy and foul-plagued and hard to watch at times.
“Yeah, but a win’s a win, no matter what it looks like,” senior Shay Steele said after West (22-2) advanced to Thursday’s second round. “We played our game. As long as we continue to play hard we’ll be OK.”
Steele scored 26 points and boosted her season total to 514. She added 10 rebounds as West rolled to its seventh victory in its last eight games.
“They were double-teaming her to begin with,” said WR coach Todd McNeely. “Once we adjusted to that and started passing the ball first, they had to get off of her.”
Like most leading ladies, Steele was backed by a strong supporting cast. Alison Sobataka scored nine of her 14 points in the opening quarter while Nycieko Dixon and Khaila Hall fought through foul trouble to fininsh with nine points apiece.
“We had to concentrate on pushing the ball and not necessarily setting up in our half-court offense,” Sobataka said. “When we push the ball we’re in our element.”
That hurry-up approach led to eight first-quarter turnovers and a 5-2 deficit for the Falcons, forcing McNeely to burn a timeout just 1:31 into the game.
“It was a very sloppy start,” the coach said. “We had three passes on one possession and never caught the ball. We just had to calm down have patience.”
Losing coach Greg Stewart called Statesville’s favorable start “a sign of progress” and added: “Their two stars are used to playing with no one in their face. We put people right in their face.”
It was Sobataka who sparked West’s fuse when she knocked the first of her two 3-pointers midway through the opening period. A cloud-scraper from left side, it gave the Falcons an 11-9 lead they never relinquished.
By the time Steele heated up, netting three consecutive layups, and Sobataka hit a putback, West had a 21-11 lead. It became a 12-0 run when Hall sank a pair of layups early in the second quarter.
“We kept our composure,” Steele indicated. “Didn’t change the blue print. And I didn’t let the refs take me out of my game.”

NOTES: Soph Ineya Hairston had 13 first-half points for Statesville, which finished with a 2-20 record. … Second-seed West meets No. 3 Carson when the tournament shifts to North Iredell High School on Thursday.

STATESVILLE (43) —Hairston 13, Arnette 9, Carr 7, Padgett 7, Elliot 4, Turner 1, Parson 1, Mayfield 1.
WEST ROWAN (78) — Steele 26, Sobataka 14, Hall 9, Dixon 9, James 5, Q.Miller 3, S.Miller 3, Gibson 2, Alesandrini 2, Cross 2, Freeze 2, Martin 1, Edwards.

Statesville 11 14 9 9 — 43
W. Rowan 21 26 10 21 — 78

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