High school basketball: Falcons rally from early deficit

Published 3:36 am Wednesday, February 24, 2021

By Mike London


MOUNT ULLA — It wasn’t exactly the start West Rowan boys basketball coach Mike Gurley had dreamed about.

Monroe led Gurley’s dazed and confused Falcons 12-0 on the scoreboard and Gurley had just burned his second timeout and was trying to figure out his next motivational speech.

“Anytime you play a team coached by Johnny Sowell it’s going to be gut-check time,” Gurley said. “His teams are going to play you as hard and as tough as anybody. Monroe came to play. I knew they would.”

Besides Sowell, the Monroe Redhawks had Shaleak Knotts in their corner. Knotts is a 6-foot-2 athlete with a stack of college football scholarship offers from ACC and SEC schools to play wide receiver.

He can also hoop. Knotts scored 30, but the Falcons managed to rally for a 69-60 victory in a first-round 3A playoff game.

It was a determined, inexorable comeback from that early hole. West got back within 19-14 after a quarter. Monroe’s lead was 34-28 at halftime.

“Monroe played a matchup zone and  did a good  job on our shooters,” Gurley said. “But we started chipping away. We got back into it.”

Seeded 16th, Monroe (9-4) had a quickness advantage, but with 6-foot-6 Zeek Biggers, the Georgia Tech football recruit, top-seeded West (14-1) had a size advantage.

“We did a good job with the two-man game with Zeek and Jalen Moss,” Gurley said. “Zeek is always going to be a matchup problem unless our opponent borrows someone from the Charlotte Hornets. Moss drove it well. Juke Harris drove it well. Macari Allison made some big shots.”

Allison made three 3-pointers.

West trailed 47-45 going to the fourth quarter, but had enough left for a big finish and a 24-point fourth quarter..

With 3:50 left, West finally moved on top 53-51 and pulled away in the last two minutes.

“We really had to work for it,” Gurley said. “But we got the first one.”

Moss scored 20 and had five assists. Biggers had nine points and 10 rebounds. Braden Graham scored 12, while Harris had 10.

West won a playoff game for the first time since it beat Tuscola in 2017.

That 2017 season was the one in which West lost to Cox Mill four times, twice in the South Piedmont Conference regular season, plus the conference tournament and the second round of the plyoffs.

Next for the Falcons on Thursday is a visit from  … Cox Mill (11-2).

“I’m pretty sure we’re 0-75 against Cox Mill,” Gurley said.

Cox Mill beat A.C. Reynolds 44-31 on Tuesday. A.C. Reynolds slowed things down. Cox Mill averages about 70 per game with a lot of balance, so the Falcons are expected to have their hands full again on Thursday.


MONROE (60) — Knotts 30, Robinson 10, Davis 6, Smith 6, Reed 5, Bivens 3.

WEST (69) — Moss 20, Allison 14, Graham 12, Harris 10, Biggers 9, Mauldin 2, Noble 2.

Monroe         19    15    13    13    — 60

W. Rowan    14   14    17    24    — 69