SALISBURY — It came down to winning sloppy — and sloppy the West Rowan boys basketball team can do.
The Falcons stunk up Goodman Gym for the better part of three quarters Thursday night but still emerged smelling like a tray of cinnamon buns.
West’s 70-61 victory in the first round of the Sam Moir Tournament wasn’t a work of beauty — it was more of a therapeutic, much-needed win — and coach Mike Gurley had an explanation.
“I’m sure it had to do with the gymnasium, the atmosphere, the ham, the deviled eggs, the pecan pie, the laying around watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” he spewed afterward. “There’s a whole lot of things that went into our shooting.”
The post-holiday menu also included a hearty portion of Celexus Long, Najee Tucker, and Daisean Reddick. On a night when second-seeded West (7-3) shot only 35 percent from the floor, Long went 4-for-8 and scored a game-high 18 points. Tucker was even better — 6-for-7 from the field, 16 points, eight rebounds and his first career dunk. Reddick contributed 10 points and six steals, including a key swipe that helped West take a 37-30 halftime lead.
“It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy,” Tucker said after breaking out of a mild slump. “But we fought through all the way to the end. They made us fight.”
Seventh-seeded Davie (1-9) hung around longer than anyone expected. The War Eagles shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and forced West to misfire on 17 of 20 three-point attempts. But that’s not what had DC coach Mike Absher scratching his head.
“Our biggest thing is I was just trying to figure out what to do defensively,” he said. “I thought we played them well. We just didn’t get rebounds.”
Davie was paced by sophomore Jordan McDaniel, who shot 6-for-9 from the floor and netted a career-best 15 points. He beamed in three 3-balls, all in the first half.
“They didn’t give up, and we probably thought they would,” Tucker noted. “We made mistakes ourselves that we probably shouldn’t have made.”
Mistakes like coughing up the 42-30 lead Tucker gave West with a runaway layup early in the second half. And like going more than four minutes without a basket as Davie charged back and tied the score 51-51 on a pair of Heath Slabach free throws with 5:46 remaining.
“We didn’t play good defense,” Long stated matter-of-factly. “We gambled too much on defense. We should have stayed in front of our man and made them make a play.”
It was Tucker who ignited West’s decisive finishing kick. His routine layup put the Falcons back on top and with 4:55 to play he took a pass from teammate Kortez Weeks and flushed down a crowd-pleasing jam.
“I just wish it didn’t happen so fast,” Tucker smiled outside the West locker room. “I couldn’t enjoy it. I had to get back on defense right away.”
West held a three-point lead before Long converted two free throws midway through the fourth quarter.
“Whenever it gets like that,” Long said, “we don’t rush our shots and we don’t panic. We just calm down and do what we normally do. That’s make plays.”
That’s when Reddick logged on and scored three straight laupys, the middle one on an over-and-under scoop shot, and the Falcons quickly owned a 64-55 edge. With the clock on their side, the maintained longer possessions and refrain from taking low-percentage shots.
“For a guy who used to shoot the 3, I don’t like coaching it,” Gurley said. “I’d much rather get the ball in the paint and have somebody wheeling and dealing. Sometimes you’ve got to live and die with that.”
West prevailed to fight another day. It will meet Carson in a 4:30 p.m semifinal today.
“When you come out of Christmas and you haven’t played for a week, to get a win is what matters,” Gurley said. “There was no rhythm to that game, an awkward game. But we hadn’t won one of these things in years. We’re usually going right into the bubble-gum bracket. We’re just thankful to still be in the winner’s bracket.”
DAVIE CO. (61) — McDaniel 15, Sell 10, Poole 10, Starnes 8, Dalton 8, Bennet 4, Slabach 2, Colamarino 2, Redmond 2, Mua.
WEST ROWAN (70) — Long 18, Tucker 16, Parks 12, Reddick 10, Weeks 7, Martin 3, Joseph 2, Hassard 2, Phillips, Wood, Morris.
Davie Co. 7 23 15 16 — 61
W. Rowan 16 21 13 20 — 70