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RoMedical Care Sam Moir Christmas Classic: West Rowan boys 69, North Rowan 61

By Nick Bowton

Salisbury Post

North Rowan played its best basketball of the season in the first quarter Wednesday. Played real well in the second quarter too.

Then West Rowan decided it didn’t want to lose its Christmas tournament opener to a winless team.

Led by Jamel Carpenter and K.J. Sherrill, the Falcons shut down North after halftime and won 69-61 in the first round of the Sam Moir Christmas Classic. Second-seeded West plays third-seeded Salisbury today at 4:30 p.m.

“They’re 0-9, so, no, you don’t expect them to come out and shoot the ball like that,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “But there’s two things I know: One, they’re not an 0-9 basketball team. Secondly, I knew those kids wanted to play well. They want to end their streak. They want to get that ‘W.’

“So as soon as I saw them knocking down all those jumpers, I thought, ‘We have woken up a sleeping giant.’ ”

That’s how it looked through two quarters, at least.

North (0-10) shot 60.0 percent from the floor in the first half. The Cavs made all six of their 3-point attempts. Point guard Bryson Gaymon, who came in averaging 7.4 points per game, had 13 in the first half alone, and Spencer Sheets, typically a spot-up shooter, was shaking defenders and firing pull-up 3s.

When Sheets (16 points) made his third 3 of the first half, after shaking a defender on the right wing, North led 33-17.

“We came out with a lot of intensity,” said Gaymon, who finished with 22 points. “Everybody was doing what they could do to produce for the team. Everybody was just confident, playing to the best of our abilities.”

The Falcons, meanwhile, seemed just as amazed as most of the fans in Goodman Gym that North was playing so well.

“A lot of times you can get into a mode where you feel like you’re kind of in the third-person and you’re watching what’s going on out there,” Gurley said. “I get on ’em a lot about this ain’t DirecTV, this is not Time Warner Cable. You can’t watch the game; you gotta play the game.

“I think when they started making those 3s, we’re all kind of looking up saying, ‘Wow,’ and we got into a little bit of standing-around mode.”

The Falcons traded standing-around mode for hustling-like-crazy mode at halftime.

After Joe Kesler (10 points) opened the second-half scoring for North, West went on a 15-2 run to regain the lead. Sherrill started the run with a basket, and Carpenter ended it with one of his four 3s.

That 3-pointer put West ahead 42-41 with 4:12 left in the third quarter. Carpenter’s final 3 gave the Falcons (8-1) the lead for good just more than a minute later.

“He said he’s gonna shoot, and he told me to rebound,” Sherrill said of Carpenter. “And he said for me to shoot and he was gonna rebound. So vice versa.”

The plan couldn’t have worked better. Carpenter had a team-high 22 points and also had seven rebounds, six steals and four assists. Sherrill had 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds and five blocks.

West ended the third quarter on another run, as Carpenter capped a 9-2 spurt by grabbing a Sherrill miss and dunking the putback in one forceful motion. That play gave West a 54-47 lead heading into the final quarter.

Gurley credited freshman point guard K.P. Parks (11 points) for at least slowing Gaymon down in the third quarter, when West regained momentum. He also said the victory said a lot about his team shedding its image as Carpenter and a bunch of young guys. Parks and Chris Smith both start as freshmen, while Sherrill and Kaleb Kimber (10 points) start as sophomores.

“It’s all cute and cuddly to have two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting lineup and have them playing such big minutes,” Gurley said. “But you know what? It’s time to put your classification aside and start realizing that no matter what class you’re in, you play for West Rowan. That means you gotta compete. I think those kids realized that tonight.”

North Rowan (61) — Gaymon 22, Sheets 16, Kesler 10, Cherry 6, Griffith 3, Burnett 2, Hargrave 2, Walker, N.Smith, Still, L.Smith, Lewallen.

west ROWAN (69) — Carpenter 22, K.Sherrill 17, Parks 11, Kimber 10, Martin 3, C.Smith 2, W.Sherrill 2, Bradshaw 1, Browning 1, Charleston, Kimbrough, Stricklin.

N. Rowan 21 16 10 14 — 61

W. Rowan 12 15 27 15 — 69

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Contact Nick Bowton at 704-797-4256 or nbowton@salisburypost.com.

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