The girls basketball game at West Rowan on Tuesday night had everything one could hope for on paper.
The game surpassed all expectations in a remarkable way.
The Falcons were close to overcoming a seven-point deficit in the second half and extending their winning streak of 33 games. However, Lake Norman surprised everyone by coming back from behind and winning by seven points, shocking the defending 3A state champions in an exciting 77-73 game.
With just over three minutes left in the game, Samantha Shehan, the top scorer, was substituted out due to fouling out. Despite being behind 65-58, the Wildcats were not giving up.
In under 60 seconds, Kelsey Rhyne, Adason Buoniconti, and Alexis, Samantha’s sister, sparked an 8-0 streak to surpass the opponent. Together, they contributed 19 points in the victory.
The intense match was a back-and-forth competition. Lake Norman took the lead in the first quarter with five different players contributing to the score. Rhyne, Samantha Shehan, and Kendyll Moore all made shots from beyond the arc in the opening period.
Lake Norman maintained a 19-17 lead after the first quarter, despite a strong performance from West Rowan’s Emma Clarke and Lauren Arnold towards the end of the period.
It was a challenge to establish a clear lead on the scoreboard, but the Shehan sisters contributed significantly before the end of the first half. Samantha and Alexis accounted for 18 out of the Wildcats’ 23 points in the second quarter, resulting in Lake Norman taking a 42-35 lead into halftime.
The latter portion of the game consisted of everything one could hope for in a clash between two previous state finalists. West Rowan dominated the third quarter rebounding and effortlessly drove to the basket.
In the period, Clarke and second-year point guard Tiara Thompson each scored three-point plays, igniting excitement among the nearly full home crowd.
With slightly over two minutes left in the third quarter, Makaylah Tenor scored a basket to give the Falcons the lead of 48-47. Lake Norman quickly responded with a long three-pointer from Rhyne during a transition play, regaining their advantage.
Thompson scored seven points in the third quarter, giving West Rowan a 55-52 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Clarke was the top scorer with 25 points and also achieved a double-double. Her efforts on rebounding contributed to the Falcons’ lead of up to seven points before Lake Norman started their comeback.
Alexis Shehan started off the play with an aggressive rebound and successfully scored on a follow-up shot. The Wildcats regained possession after a turnover on the inbound pass, and Rhyne drove past her defender to score and earn a three-point opportunity. West Rowan then committed a traveling violation, allowing Buoniconti to make a three-pointer from the corner.
At a score of 66-66, Shehan persevered and earned three points, ultimately securing the lead for her team.
In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats achieved a flawless record of 12 successful free throw shots, ultimately defeating their opponent. Throughout the game, Lake Norman had a 91.7% success rate at the free throw line, making 22 out of 24 attempts.
After reaching the 4A state championship, McKenzie Graham’s team has won all seven of their non-conference games in the current season. Lake Norman will have a 10-day rest period before facing Statesville on December 15, after playing 7 games in 18 days.
This is the first loss for West Rowan since February 24, 2022. The Falcons will have a fast turnaround as they head to North Rowan on Wednesday evening.
Lake Norman Scoring:
- Rhyne, 24
- A. Shehan, 21
- S. Shehan, 19
- Buoniconti, 10
- Moore, 3
West Rowan Scoring:
- Clarke, 25
- Arnold, 14
- Thompson, 11
- Tenor, 8
- Phifer, 8
- Edwards, 7