Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 28, 2013

SALISBURY — One thing the Moir Christmas Classic demonstrated about this year’s West Rowan team: you can never count the Falcons out.
Playing with an uncharacteristic hesitancy for most of the first three quarters Saturday afternoon, West flipped the switch in the final quarter to bolt past South Rowan 49-43 and claim the third place game.
Down by eight, 36-28 at the end of the third, the Falcons (8-4) turned up the defensive intensity and outscored South 21-7 in the last frame.
“That was a gut check, a refuse to lose game,” West Coach Mike Gurley observed. “We learned that it doesn’t matter if we are making shots or not. We have just got to embrace the grind and fight through it to find a way to win.”
West departs the tournament with wins over Davie and South, plus a semi-final loss to Carson. A common theme throughout was an inability to consistently hit shots from any distance. Their top two scorers coming in, Seth Martin and Celexus Long, both averaged over 17 points per game but failed to reach double figures in the final two games.
“Shots haven’t been falling for us,” Gurley said, “and they want to do so well that fear and anxiety set in. The only way to get through that is to keep fighting.”
In fairness to South Rowan (4-7), they played the game without two of their top players, Shawn Spry and Christian Holbrook, Both were on the bench in street clothes for what Coach Bryan Withers would only reveal as a “coaches decision.”
“I did not know how the team would respond to my decision to not play two of our top players,” Withers said. “But every player I put on the floor played as hard as he could and that it all you can ask.”
That was especially true of guard Qwan Rhyne and 6-4 forward Lavon Hill who controlled the tempo early and often. The Raiders led 22-17 at the half then expanded it to as many as nine in the third. Rhyne hit two buckets while Hill canned seven including a surprise 3 pointer to make it 36-27.
The final quarter opened with West down 36-28 but they turned the tide by picking up the defensive intensity with their press and by finally getting the key shots to fall.
Celexus Long opened the run with a three point play then Dearius Phillips had a putback shot. When Daisean Reddick hit a three and Devin Parks hit another from the top of the key, the score was suddenly tied at 41-41 with 3:41 left.
From that point on, South managed only a couple of foul shots while missing in close on five trips and turning it over on two other chances. West grabbed the lead with three minutes left when Parks rifled a pass down the lane to big man Chris Hassard under the basket for a lay-up, 43-41.
Greg Joseph, a 6-1 post player, took his turn as a hero with a rebound jumper for a 45-42 margin then his two free throws at six seconds iced the game at 47-43. Parks added two more foul shots for good measure in the final seconds.
Parks led a balanced Falcon attack with 11 points while Long had nine and Reddick added eight. Parks earned a spot on the All-tournament team as well for his three game performance of 43 points. Hassard, Tucker and Joseph claimed seven rebounds each as they bested South in that category 38-32.
South was led by Rhyne with 19 points and eight rebounds while Hill added 11. T’Vadis Graham-Wesley had eight rebounds but managed just 3 points on 1-of-12 shooting. It was that kind of night for the Raiders.
“We are disappointed we were 1-2,” Withers said. “But I think we played hard and we showed people what we can be when we get everybody on board and do it the right way.”
SOUTH ROWAN (43) — Rhyne 19, Hill 11, Rary 5. Goldston 3, Graham-Wesley 3, Wilder 2, Stewart, Chiders, Finger.
WEST ROWAN (49) — Parks 13, Long 9, Reddick 8, Tucker 6, Hassard 6, Jospeh 5, Weeks 2, Martin, Phillips.

S. Rowan 10 12 14 7 — 43
Concord 9 8 11 21 — 21