High school basketball: West boys beat the press
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — When West Rowan boys basketball coach Mike Gurley saw that Cox Mill was the next assignment for the Falcons he joked that he was 0-75 against the Chargers.
He was only kidding, exaggerating a bit, hyperbolizing about the 75 losses, but not about the 0-fer.
Ninth-seeded Cox Mill, which opened its doors in Cabarrus County in 2009, had beaten West Rowan’s boys 13 straight times, so Gurley was 0-13.
But now he’s 1-13. West beat Cox Mill 61-52 in Thursday’s second round of the 3A state playoffs, although Gurley was quick to bellow that this is what would’ve been a sectional final in the old days. The field in the 3A West boys bracket has been trimmed to a foursome.
Now it’s just top-seeded West Rowan (15-1), Crest, Mount Tabor and Weddington.
“Really, even though we’ll be playing at home on Saturday (against Crest), this will be a regional semifinal,” Gurley said. “We haven’t been here in a while. We haven’t even sniffed being here in a while.”
The last time West got to a regional semifinal was in 2011 when the Falcons lost to Hunter Huss. That was a team led by Keshun Sherrill and B.J. Sherrill.
West, which had to extricate itself from a 12-0 hole in the first round against Monroe, didn’t start hot against Cox Mill either. West got down seven early.
“They were pressing us and we haven’t seen that much and they had three different presses that they did a good job of mixing up,” Gurley said. “But we had prepared for the press and talked about it and we made the adjustments we needed to make. We made a lot of good passes, a lot of good basketball plays for layups.”
West didn’t shoot particularly well. The only 3-pointers the Falcons made were a pair by AJ Mauldin in the second quarter, but those were big as far as West turning a 20-point second quarter into a 28-23 halftime lead.
There wasn’t much pretty about the win. For the game, West shot 32 free throws and only made 16.
Cox Mill (11-3) was 12-for-16 at the stripe. That’s the same number of free throws that West point guard Jalen Moss attempted. Moss who is hard to stay in front of and hard to keep out of the lane, was 10-for-16 on free ones. He led West with 24 points.
Macari Allison had 10 points and eight rebounds and blocked a couple of jump shots, as he normally dies.
Braden Graham had nine points and eight rebounds. Mauldin had six assists.
Freshman Juke Harris didn’t score, but Gurley lauded some of the decisions he made.
Marcus Morgan scored 16 for Cox Mill. He’s a brother of former Cox Mill star Matt Morgan.
Several West multi-sport players did a good job of maintaining their focus on basketball. West’s football squad played at Salisbury about an hour after the basketball game got under way.
Zeek Biggers, the mammoth post man who signed with Georgia Tech’s football program, is no doubt West’s most impactful football player, but the big guy is also enjoying the final basketball games of his life, so there was never any question that he was going to hoop.
“Zeek really wanted this one,” Gurley said. “He probably played more minutes tonight than he has all year, and he was good, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Biggers got eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter. He had nine rebounds.
The guy who spells the 330-pound Biggers on the basketball court is 300-pound Josh Noble. Noble is West’s best offensive lineman, the left tackle, but for now, he’s a hooper.
“As always, Josh came in and gave us great energy,” Gurley said.
Noah Loeblein is about the ninth man for West basketball, but he’s QB1 for the football team. Loeblein was also in a basketball uniform on Thursday. He made a commitment to basketball, so he was right where he needed to be.
“I mean, this is the playoffs,” Gurley said. “We do appreciate Coach (Louis) Kraft’s support with this, but these guys are basketball players until our season is over. If we’re able to make a run, they could also miss our second football game against Davie.”
The world has turned upside down this school year with the basketball season spilling into football season instead of the other way around. In normal times, basketball games commence in mid-November and basketball can linger into December.
“I know a thing or two about basketball/football conflicts,” Gurley said. “Every year, our football team was in the playoffs and we were waiting for them to play basketball. I calculated once that we’ve played the equivalent of two full basketball seasons without our football guys.”
When West entertains Crest, from the Boiling Springs/Shelby area on Saturday, Gurley will be tangling with one of his best friends in the coaching ranks.
Crest’s coach is Brad “Bull” LeVine. LeVine’s team beat North Iredell 66-50 on Thursday. North Iredell won one of three against West Rowan and was the only team to defeat West in the regular season.
“Brad and I were coaching against each other in jayvee ball 30 years ago,” Gurley said. “We’ve coached against each other in playoff games. Whenhe was the East-West All-Star Game coach a while back, I was his assistant.”
Crest is 15-1 and has been scoring a lot of points.
Game time is listed at 6 p.m.
COX MILL (52) — Morgan 16, Hamilton 10, Hunter 9, Baldwin 6, Ruddle 5, Powell 4, Baker 1, McLanahan 1,
WEST (61) — Moss 24, Biggers 12, Allison 10, Graham 9, Maudin 6, Harris, Noble, Wood, Loeblein, Currie.
Cox Mill 11 12 10 19 — 52
W. Rowan 8 20 13 20 — 61