Prep boys: West handles East; Falcons 9-2 in Rowan games
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — West Rowan’s 65-45 win at East Rowan on Tuesday clinched a winning season for the Falcons, and it solidified the Falcons’ claim to the mythical title of county champions.
West took the hardware handed out at the Christmas tournament at Catawba, the key to making any boasts about county supremacy, and the Falcons (14-5, 10-3 SPC) have continued to prosper against county opponents. West is 9-2 against Rowan foes this season. West is 2-1 against North Rowan, 2-1 against Carson, 1-0 against Salisbury and 2-0 against South Rowan and East Rowan.
So county champions? Sure.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done this season and proud of what we’ve done in the county,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “But the next step is to see how we can do against that Cabarrus County gauntlet. Our next five games are against Cabarrus.”
West is 5-2 against Cabarrus. Because of postponements, the Falcons will see Hickory Ridge for the first time tonight in Mount Ulla. West has split two thrillers with Central Cabarrus. The other loss to a Cabarrus team was at powerful Cox Mill. A home victory over highly regarded Robinson rates as West’s best triumph of the season.
East (4-17, 2-13 SPC) had lots to gain and nothing to lose against the Falcons and played fearlessly. West had to fight for a 13-12 lead after a quarter.
“There weren’t any surprises tonight,” East coach Kurt Misenheimer said. “We know we can play with West, but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and missed free throws. The turnovers were the biggest thing. If we take care of the ball better and we make half the free throws we missed, it ‘s probably a different story.”
West owned the second quarter, making four 3-pointers and getting Caleb Mauldin active in the paint . Two of those 3-pointers were hit by Kortez Weeks, who will sign with Elon today as a football wideout. West’s 25-point quarter created a 38-23 halftime edge against a cold-shooting East squad.
West led by 17 early in the third quarter, but a Paiton File 3-pointer, the first one the Mustangs made, energized the home team. When point guard Lucas Morton and bruiser Brandon Jefferson powered in three-point plays late in the third quarter, East trailed 48-38 and had some momentum.
But the Falcons settled things quickly in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Power forward Austin Love, a rebounder who doesn’t shoot much, got three hoops in a hurry. Love and the 6-foot-8 Mauldin scored West’s first 10 points of the quarter, as the Falcons’ lead swelled to 58-40.
“We finally found the back side of East’s zone, and it was good to see Love make some aggressive offensive moves.” Gurley said.
The Falcons cruised from there despite 14 points by Jefferson and 13 by Morton. East made only two 3-pointers in the game (both by File).
East managed only one field goal in the fourth quarter.
“The key to that fourth quarter was playing defense and not letting guys blow by us,” Mauldin said. “We locked them up pretty good on defense, and we valued the ball and took good shots on offense. When we take good shots, we’re in good position for offensive rebounds.”
Mauldin’s 21 points led West. The Falcons got 10 from Paris Hillie and eight each from Love and Weeks. Darius Kure and Martavio Rankin contributed 3-pointers.
“I think we’ve kind of had the January blues,” Gurley said. “I can’t fault our effort, the kids play hard, and they let me coach them. But we haven’t had any flow lately. We’ve been a little bit out of our rhythm.”
WEST ROWAN (65)
Mauldin 21, Hillie 10, Weeks 8, Love 8, Rankin 6, Lawrence 5, Kure 5, Sproul 2, Delgado, Myers, Robinson, Hogue.
EAST ROWAN (45)
Jefferson 14, Morton 13, File 6, Spinkle 4, Hinceman 4, Taylor 2, Bennett 2, Scruggs.
W. Rowan 13 25 10 17— 65
E. Rowan 12 11 15 7 — 45