STATESVILLE — Nothing has come easy for the West Rowan Falcons this basketball season but their hard work has paid off.
Shaking off a stiff challenge from host West Iredell Wednesday night, the Falcons pulled away in the second half to win 78-56 and put a cherry on top of their regular season.
After starting the year 1-8, West (9-3, 11-12) wrapped up a share of second place in the NPC, earned a state playoff berth and have momentum heading into the conference tournament next week.
“I am really proud of these guys, these 11 basketball players,” coach Mike Gurley said. “They are winners and they have made a commitment to each other.”
Gurley has coached some great state championship teams in his career but may have done one of his best jobs this season with this Falcon squad. “I don’t really evaluate that because I am not sure if I coach good from one game to the next. But we have come a long way.”
Coming off a big win at Carson on Monday, West may have been in danger of falling into a trap game at West Iredell (0-12, 2-18). For the entire first half the game was a real battle as the deadly shooting of forward Lance Johnson and the inside muscle of T.J. Teasley put the Warriors ahead by five, 30-25 just three minutes before halftime.
The Falcons battled back with their own deadly shooter, Celexius Long, who drained a pair of threes in the final minute of the half to give his team a 35-34 edge.
Long, Devin Parks and Daisean Reddick, plus a smothering defense enabled the Falcons to finally gain the separation they needed in the third period and lock up the win.
“We just started playing defense and moving our feet,” Parks stated as his team built a 56-44 lead. “Everyone was moving and switching and playing hard.”
Warrior Coach Matt Miller felt his team gave the kind of effort he wants from them every night. “We might not win every game but we want people to know they played somebody. That’s what we got tonight.”
His sharpshooter Johnson scored 29 on the night with Teasley adding 13 inside. Long, the 5-8 sohomore for the Falcons nailed six three pointers and led with 20. Reddick had 14, Parks 11 and Najee Tucker added 10 to a balanced effort.
Gurley also praised the defense and rebounding of Darius Gabriel and Dearius Phillips off the bench as key their third quarter surge.
WEST ROWAN (78) —Long 20, Reddick 14, Parks 11, Tucker 10, Martin 8, Phillips 5, Morrison 4, Gabriel 2, Blackwood 2, Hassard 2, Gallagher.
WEST IREDELL (56) — Johnson 29, Teasley 13, Sells 10, Weaver 2, Keaton 2, Harrison, David, Boggs.
W. Rowan 19 16 21 22 — 78
W. Iredell 19 15 10 12 — 56