Heiner hits game winner

Published 2:58 pm Thursday, January 7, 2016

SALISBURY – Cory Heiner’s energy level changes every game, and his grit and hustle led to his game-winning basket in the first round of the Sam Moir Christmas Classic at Catawba College on Dec. 28.

After winning a battle for an offensive rebound, Heiner got the ball to Jordan McDaniel, who gave it back to Heiner. Heiner’s short bank with four seconds remaining gave Davie’s varsity boys basketball team a 74-73 win over West Rowan.

“I choked for a second when I put it up there,” Heiner said after third-seeded Davie beat the No. 6 Falcons. “I said: ‘Please, go in.’ I prayed for it to go in. It went in and I was so proud.”

The Falcons, who won the Moir last year as the fifth seed, slipped to 4-5 while Davie improved to 8-3.

The War Eagles controlled most of the game, leading 21-14 at the end of the first quarter and leading by as many as 12. Cooper Wall scored and was fouled on a fastbreak, then he got a steal and dunked with two hands as part of a nine-point second quarter. Wall’s burst extended the lead to 33-23, and Davie led 37-30 at the half.

Both teams shot incredibly well in the third, the quarter starting with the teams a combined 9-for-9 from the floor and they combined for 49 points in the period.

Heath Slabach, Heiner and Dylan Shoffner keyed a surge that saw Davie’s lead balloon to double figures. Slabach faked a pass to Wall, who was set up beyond the arc, then decided to fire a 3-pointer himself. It splashed for a 51-41 advantage. After hitting a turnaround jump hook, Heiner grabbed a defensive rebound, went coast to coast and finished with a finger roll over a defender to make it 55-43. Slabach buried a 3-pointer from the corner and was fouled, resulting in a rare four-point play that made it 59-47. Slabach hit three 3s in the quarter. Shoffner jumped off the bench and immediately got an and-one to make it 61-49.

West, however, would not roll over. Its 6-0 run to close the quarter cut Davie’s lead to 61-55.

“I was really disappointed with how the third quarter ended,” Davie coach Mike Absher said. “We didn’t play very smart there.”

After driving and drawing a foul, Nic Starnes hit two free throws for a 69-63 lead. But West responded with a 10-0 run to put Davie in a 73-69 deficit. Caleb Mauldin, a 6-7 sophomore, carried the Falcons with 32 points, including 23 in the second half. It was not a fluke; he had 43 earlier against Central Cabarrus. The other West big man, the 6-3 Austin Love, had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“To lose a lead and be able to regain your composure speaks very highly of our team,” Absher said.

“I think it shows our heart and dedication to come back and win the game,” Heiner said.

Heiner hit one free throw to cut the deficit to 73-70 with 2:02 to go. Heiner was everywhere at crunch time, his block setting in motion another big play. After the block, McDaniel tipped the ball to Starnes, who found Slabach. Slabach hit a difficult layup to draw Davie within 73-72.

Heiner picked up his fourth foul with 32 seconds remaining, but West missed the front end of a one-and-one and McDaniel rebounded. Absher called timeout with 21 seconds left.

“He told us to execute and take the best available shot. Not the first shot, the best available shot,” Heiner said.

Slabach missed a jumper from the left elbow. Heiner’s game-winning play made your neck hairs stand up. First, he went up against a taller defender and wrestled away the rebound, crashing to the floor but managing to maintain possession. Before West could tie him up, Heiner passed to McDaniel, who was about 17 feet out. McDaniel took a dribble toward the goal and passed it to Heiner on the right. The cutting Heiner converted a seven-foot kiss off the glass with four seconds left, giving him seven of Davie’s 13 fourth-quarter points and more importantly, giving Davie the lead.

“A lot of different things could have happened right there,” Absher said. “We talk about second-chance opportunities and never giving up on the play. I saw Jordan had it with nine seconds left and the lane was open. I’m glad he had the maturity and experience to drive it because you’re not going to get anything better if you call timeout.”

“I had an open shot, but I saw Cory under the basket and he was wide open,” McDaniel said.

West missed a halfcourt shot at the horn, sealing Davie’s second hard-fought win over the Falcons this season. Davie won 78-72 at West on Dec. 9.

Heiner’s heroics made the War Eagles 3-0 in one-point games and sent them to the semifinals. He paced five double-figure scorers with 15 points, matching a season high. He came in averaging six.

After scoring 30 in a win at Atkins, Slabach put up 14. Wall had 13. Michael Walton came through with 12, about seven above his average. McDaniel had 10. Starnes went 6-of-6 from the foul line to score eight. Davie hit 13 of 15 free throws.

“I’m a sore loser. I refuse to lose,” Heiner said. “I was surprised it came to me. My teammate (McDaniel) made a great pass and I’m thankful it went in. My teammates made shots. It’s about my teammates; it’s not about me.”

Davie 74, W. Rowan 73 – Cory Heiner 15, Heath Slabach 14, Cooper Wall 13, Michael Walton 12, Jordan McDaniel 10, Nic Starnes 8, Dylan Shoffner 2.