Mauldin scores 29 but Falcons fall to Davie County

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2017

By David Shaw

MOUNT ULLA —Mike Gurley and the West Rowan boys basketball team chalked this one up to growing pains.

The coming-of-age Falcons earned an ‘A’ for effort Tuesday night, but stumbled across the finish line in a 68-63 loss to visiting Davie County.

“I know there are things we need to work on, but you’ve got to give Davie County the credit after that,” Gurley said, after West (0-2) was outscored 7-2 in the final minute and 22 seconds. “I feel really good about our effort, but we’re going to have to sustain that effort throughout. We’re gonna have to fight through not winning.”

West trailed by as much as 28-17 late in the first half before staging several comeback rallies. The last came when 6-foot-8 senior Caleb Mauldin took a gorgeous feed from teammate Tyrese Lawrence, banked in a layup and converted an ensuing free throw to tie the score, 61-61 with 1:33 to play.

“We fought all night,” Mauldin said after scoring a game-high 29 points. “Against a team like this, you can’t take a break. And we’re a young team, a bunch of kids that work hard even though we’re still learning the game.”

Davie (2-0) was paced by Michael Walton’s 21 points. Teammate Owen McCormack — a 6-8 junior with an impressive wingspan — added 19 before fouling out with 1:33 remaining.

“That was huge when that happened,” said winning coach Mike Absher. “He not only protects the goal, he’s one of our main scorers. Somehow, we made the right plays down the stretch.”

West’s strategy immediately focused on Mauldin. “We had to get the ball to Caleb,” said Falcons senior Martavio Rankin. “He was the biggest person on the floor. Get him the ball and let him work.”

Mauldin scored 12 straight fourth-quarter points for West, a spectacle interrupted only by McCormack’s layup with 2:30 to play. The War Eagles went ahead for good when Walton sank the first of two free throws and a teammate corralled the rebound on the second attempt. Only 1:07 remained when Absher signaled for a timeout.

“I just talked to them about keeping their composure,” he said. “We weren’t behind and it was very clear what we wanted to do on that possession.”

Walton scored on a power-drive layup from the left side to make it 64-61. In the final 30 seconds Walton and Cooper Wall each converted two free throws for Davie — sandwiched around Lawrence’s bucket with 19.5 seconds to go.

“As a leader on the team, we’ve just got to keep chopping away,” said Rankin. “My guys played hard, but we’ve got to be better at finishing.”

West spent most of the night swimming against the current, but never went belly-up. It trailed by five points at halftime before junior Payne Stolsworth came off the bench and quickly drained five 3-pointers — the last on a splashdown from the right corner that drew the Falcons within 52-49 early in the fourth period.

“Payne was on fire,” said Mauldin. “He’s always been a good shooter, but this game he just blew up.”

Despite the outcome, Gurley believes the Falcons were still rewarded.

“Losses sometimes make growth not a positive thing,” he said. “It’s my job to take what we did tonight and find the positives. And the positives are we fought. These were growing pains, but at the same time, we have the makings of a good basketball team. We saw that tonight.”

DAVIE COUNTY (68) — Walton 21, McCormack 19, Wall 10, Hendrix 8, Griggs 4, Wilson 2, Johnson 2, Wood 2.

WEST ROWAN (63) — Mauldin 29, Stolsworth 15, Rankin 11, Lawrence 4, Dixon 2, Joseph 2, Brawley, Sproul, Myers, Warren, Hassard.

Davie County    13   15   22   18 — 68

West Rowan     14    9    21    19 — 63