Boys Basketball: Mauldin makes game winner for Falcons
MOUNT ULLA — Caleb Mauldin is a freshman, but he provided the game-winning play on Friday and probably has a lot more of them in his future.
West Rowan’s 6-foot-5- youngster banked in a layup from the right side with 8 seconds left to lift the Falcons to 53-52 SPC win against visiting Central Cabarrus.
“It’s a big responsibility being a starter as a freshman, but I’ve made up my mind to play my heart out,” Mauldin said. “Everything came down to that last shot. It was on me, and it felt great to make it.”
Poised plays by senior guard Celexus Long and sophomore guard Kortez Weeks gave Mauldin a chance to be a hero.
“Coming out the timeout on that possession, if Central was in man-to-man, Celexus was going to drive,” West Rowan coach Mike Gurley said. “If they came out in zone, we were going to have be patient and move the ball.”
Patience was required, and the Falcons executed. Long passed to Weeks at the top of the circle, and he passed right back to Long on the right wing. By then, Mauldin had worked for position. Long got him the ball.
Central Cabarrus (2-5, 1-3 SPC) still had an opportunity to win with two seconds left. Brian Johnson had shot from about 5 feet, but Mauldin’s long arms prevented Johnson from shooting uncontested, and the Falcons got a break when the shot didn’t fall.
“We’ve had some of those over the years that did go in against us with a second left,” Gurley said. “So we’ll take it.”
To win, the Falcons (4-4, 3-1 SPC) had to overcome a 26-point performance by Central Cabarrus standout Lavon Hightower. The Falcons did it with balance — 15 from Mauldin, 11 from Long and 10 from muscleman Derrick Moreland.
“One thing we do have this year is some size with guys like Mauldin and Moreland,” Gurley said. “Not many teams have size, so we’ve got to use that. Size won us a ballgame tonight.”
Hightower, a 6-foot-4 guard who elevated high above the Falcons for soft jumpers, had 15 by halftime and the Vikings led 23-22 at the break.
West Rowan appeared to be in serious trouble in the third quarter when Hightower started getting more help from his teammates. With under 6 minutes left to play, Central Cabarrus led 48-37. The Falcons were on the ropes, but a left-wing 3-pointer by Long cut the lead to single digits with 5:36 left, and Gurley called a timeout to prepare his team’s final push.
Weeks had the defensive assignment down the stretch on Hightower, and with Hightower quiet, so was Central Cabarrus.
“My job was to faceguard Hightower, to not let him get the ball,” Weeks said.
West Rowan’s defense was tough enough that the Vikings managed only six points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s been a broken record for us this year,”Central Cabarrus coach Kenyan Weaks said. “Same thing every game. We play well for three quarters. Then it gets tight and we crumble under pressure.West Rowan worked a lot harder to win this game than we did.”
With Moreland pounding the offensive glass, the Falcons crept closer and closer late. Weeks calmly hit the clutch 3-pointer in the final minute that cut Central Cabarrus’ lead to 52-51.
“We really needed that shot, and I’m just glad I was able to make it.” Weeks said.
When Central Cabarrus committed a turnover with 29 seconds left, the Falcons had their chance to take the lead. Long, Weeks and Mauldin made it happen.
“Focusing on defense is what gave us a chance to come back like that,” Long said. “Then on that last possession they came out on me and I was able to get the ball to Caleb for an easy shot. This was big for us. We’ve got a two-game winning streak now and we’re going to keep working.”
CENTRAL CABARRUS (52)
Hightower 26, Fuller 8, Thompson 6, English 5, Johnson 4, Purvis 3,
WEST ROWAN (53)
Mauldin 15, Long 11, Moreland 10, Joseph 6, Weeks 6, Warren 3, Wilson 2, Delgado, Rankin, Valle.
C. Cabarrus 14 8 24 6 — 52
West Rowan 12 11 12 18 — 53
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