High school basketball: West boys take NPC tournament
Published 11:55 pm Friday, February 19, 2021
West Rowan team.
By Mike London
OLIN — West Rowan boys basketball coach Mike Gurley declared that the sight of a 6-foot-6, 330-pound young man rolling around the floor in pursuit of a loose ball one of the most beautiful things he’d ever seen.
That young man was Zeek Biggers, the Georgia Tech football signee. West Rowan traveled to North Iredell with some purpose on Friday, with something to prove, and Biggers got on the floor, not once, but twice.
“Zeek played his heart out,” Gurley said. “He did a great job on the boards. He got big rebounds. He made big free throws.”
West’s 64-52 win mattered, even in this strange, masked and condensed season. Obviously, the victory meant back-to-back North Piedmont Conference Tournament championship trophies for West, but this one also meant two-out-of-three bragging rights and the league’s top seed for the upcoming 3A state playoffs. West’s only loss was at North Iredell. North Iredell’s only two losses have been to the Falcons.
“When North Iredell beat us, they played really well and we looked really fatigued,” Gurley said. “We got to read a newspaper story about us being big but slow and how North Iredell was the more aggressive team. So the main point tonight was on being at least as aggressive as they were. North Iredelll has a very good team, and this game was fought hard, but we showed how aggressive we can be. Defensively, we changed up some things and did a good job of getting stops.”
West’s long and defensive-minded Macari Allison set the tone early. He blocked two early shot attempts by North Iredell standout Jackson Hawkins.
Braden Graham and Allison carried the Falcons offensively in a first half that saw the Falcons take a 32-22 edge. Graham had 15 of his 17 points in the first half. Allison scored 11 of his 13 before the break.
“Graham takes some tough shots,” Gurley said. “But he’s a tough-shot maker. We’ve tried to just let these guys play and do what they do.”
With West (13-1) leading 17-11, Allison personally made it 21-11 with two steals and two buckets. He flushed the second one.
A North Iredell run on its home floor was inevitable and it came in the third quarter. A double-digit West lead melted to two points after a series of West misfires and North Iredell stickbacks.
That’s when Biggers came through with the game’s biggest points.
“Then we got a run of our own going, AJ (Mauldin) makes a corner 3, and we go back up by nine or 10,” Gurley said.
Jalen Moss was the central figure when the Falcons slowed things down with the lead. Moss is tough to pressure.
“Moss didn’t score at all in the first half,” Gurley said. “He was happy to handle the ball and get the ball to guys on their spots. But he was instrumental in the victory. He’s tough to chase around. He made a lot of free throws in the fourth quarter.”
West made only five buckets in the second half, but the Falcons made 21 free throws to keep North Iredell (11-2) at bay.
Joining Graham and Allison in double figures were Mauldin (13) and Moss (10). Biggers scored eight. Juke Harris helped out with three free throws. The freshman sixth man took a charge and was active defensively.
North Iredell got 15 points each from John Jackson and Hawkins.
“It’s not like we won this one at a neutral site,” Gurley said. “We won it on their court, and our guys can be proud of that. They brought a lot of effort, a lot of fight.”
And a lot of aggressiveness.
This was West’s 14th tournament championship, the eighth with Gurley as head coach.
West and North Iredell will now await the playoff pairings that will be announced on Sunday afternoon.
WEST (64) — Graham 17, Allison 13, Mauldin 13, Moss 10, Biggers 8, Harris 3, Connolly, Noble.
N. IREDELL (52) — Hawkins 15, Jackson 15, Turner 10, Saunders 8, Tharpe 2, Coltrane 2.
W. Rowan 15 17 10 22 — 64
N. Iredell 9 13 15 15 — 52