Prep Basketball: West Rowan boys extend streak to six
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan coach Mike Gurley screamed for his guys to relax.
Ironically, that booming yell came while Gurley was stomping, grunting, groaning and turning beet-red.
Gurley’s Falcons, playing without Austin Love (concussion) and Kortez Weeks (football recruiting trip), gave him some anxious moments on Friday, but they stayed in the thick of the chase for the top spot in the South Piedmont Conference with a 70-47 win against cold-shooting Northwest Cabarrus.
“We go up 22-2 at the start, but then we hit a lull and let them get back in it,” Gurley said. “It could’ve been a whole lot more relaxing night.”
When the same teams played on Wednesday at Northwest, the Falcons, who had Weeks for that one, were fortunate to escape. If Northwest hadn’t shot 12-for-32 on free throws, West may well have gone down.
West won its sixth in a row, the program’s longest streak since a Keshun Sherrill/B.J. Sherrill team played in the Western Regional in 2010-11, and the Falcons were more than ready for the rematch with the Trojans.
“Our defense got us going,” Gurley said. “Playing hard on defense led to fastbreaks and easy shots.”
Darius Kure made two 3-pointers right out of the gate as the Falcons soared in front, 8-0, and then Tyrese Lawrence, Love’s replacement, put in eight quick point on fast-breaks and stick-backs, as the Falcons surged ahead, 16-2.
“There was a lid on the basket for us,” NWC coach Eric Jackson said. “They packed in their defense, we couldn’t get the ball inside and we couldn’t make an outside shot. They game-planned very well.”
No one could’ve game-planned for Lawrence. Not the way he was playing. He hadn’t scored in double figures this season, but he was on his way to a career best of 15 points.
“I’ve been playing OK, but not the way I’m capable of playing,” Lawrence said.
Early in the second quarter, the Falcons led, astoundingly enough, 22-2, against a pretty athletic opponent, but then the Falcons got sloppy, and Northwest started to make a few shots. When Ahmod Hester beat the horn with a jumper, NWC was down 30-16 at halftime, and even trailing by 14, the Trojans had a little momentum.
One thing Northwest did right in the first half was shut down Mauldin, at least as far as points. Mauldin didn’t score the first 15 minutes and didn’t make a field goal in the first half.
“He’s a load, just a very good player,” Jackson said. “We knew we couldn’t let him get the ball, and in the first half, we kept it away from him.”
Northwest (5-9, 2-8) kept coming early in the second half, and West’s lead dwindled to 12, and then 10, and then nine. That’s when Gurley bellowed his loudest. When Elijah Isom got a stick-back for the Trojans with 4:47 left in the third, it was a 35-26 game.
But then Mauldin got a big two, and then Kure, fouled as he drilled a 3-pointer from in front of the West bench, got a quick four, and the Falcons’ lead went back to 15. They were out of danger, and the Trojans didn’t mount a serious challenge the rest of the way. Northwest was forced to foul in a bid to come back, and Mauldin and Kure were automatic at the foul line.
“We came out for the second half playing slouchy,” Lawrence said. “We needed to pick it up and get back to playing the way we did at the start of the game, and we did.”
Without Weeks and Love, Gurley got a lot of productive minutes out of reserves L.J. Robinson, Josiah Dixon and Elijah Lawson. Armoni Hogue, who started in Weeks’ spot, scored only two points, but his rebounding and defense were a factor.
“With the layover with the snow, the guys we had out, and exams coming up, we’re just glad we won our games this week,” Gurley said. “We’re looking forward to getting back in a rhythm. We’re looking forward to some normalcy.”
Kure made four 3-pointers and scored 18 points.
“He got sick and missed the Cox Mill game, and he hasn’t been quite right with his jump shot since then,” Gurley said. “It was a great sign to see him making jump-shots again tonight.”
With a 16-point second half and a 12-point fourth quarter, Mauldin finished with 18 points and 21 rebounds despite his slow start.
Paris Hillie had an off-shooting game (two points), but the Falcons got a nice offensive lift from Martavio Rankin, who made two 3-pointers and chipped in with nine points.
Seventh-ranked West (11-3, 7-1 SPC) has won 10 of its last 11 games. The lone loss in that stretch was at second-ranked Cox Mill in the game Kure missed with illness.
Hester, a former South Rowan Raider, led the Trojans with 17 points and carried his team in the fourth quarter.
NW CABARRUS (47) —Hester 17, Gustave 9, Isom 7, Stafford Gill 5, Gwynn 4, Murdock 3, Perkins 2, Hobson, Foreman, Littrell.
WEST ROWAN (70) — Kure 18, Mauldin 18, Lawrence 15, Rankin 9, Dixon 4, Lawson 2, Hillie 2, Hogue 2, Delgado, Robinson, Myers, Sproul.
NW Cabarrus 2 14 17 14 — 47
W. Rowan 16 14 16 24 —70
By Mike London firstname.lastname@example.org It’s 28 degrees in Kalamazoo, Mich., home of Western Michigan University, but former WMU defensive end... read more