Moir Classic: David Shaw column: This is what Rowan hoops is all about

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 29, 2006

This, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, is why we love high school athletics around here.

In our basketball-beating hearts, we ache for nights like Friday’s — a night when the boys teams from East Rowan and Salisbury went double-overtime just to show us just how wonderful a round ball, two backboards and a couple of hoops 94 feet apart can make us feel.

“This,” ER’s Justin Vanderford decided amid all the post-game Moir Madness at swollen Goodman Gym, “was just incredible. It was like each team kept swinging and swinging — and nobody wanted to fall down.”

It was an epic prizefight, a 71-64 East victory that won’t soon fade from memory. But it was so much more than that.

“Moments like this,” said Salisbury’s Doug Campbell, a smile forced across his broken heart, “are the moments you live for. There’s no better place than the Christmas Tournament to lay it all out and show people how good it is.”

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You want worth-the-price-of-admission moments? There were a hundred of them, there for the taking.

You want drama? There was sharp-dressed Salisbury coach Jason Causby — a walking Armani ad — stomping his feet and waving his arms like a human windmill, willing his team from a seven-point deficit in the last 1:03 of the first overtime.

Great individual performances? Start with tourney-MVP Spenser Davis, a singles-hitter who has struggled from the foul line all season — 10-for-32 before tipoff — converting three of four, the last of which completed a three-point play and gave East a 52-47 lead with 3:32 left in regulation.

“I had missed my last eight,” he said almost apologetically in the East locker room. “Sometimes they fall. Sometimes they don’t.”

Injured teammate Brian Ingold had an explanation. “He changed the way he shoots them,” came a voice from an adjacent room. “He wasn’t breathing. Tonight he took a breath before he shot.”

More Kodak moments were provided by Salisbury’s Joe Allen. The former North Rowan Green Monster was a second-story guy — playing most of the game above the rim, corralling 14 rebounds and nearly etching his name onto the Most Valuable Player award.

And what can you say about Campbell, the SHS senior who wouldn’t stop scrapping, scraping and making shots even Mr. Ripley might have trouble believing? He knocked down five three-pointers, but No. 4 is the one we’ll never forget — a game-tying scud missle from the left side with nine seconds remaining in the first OT.

“That’s just my teammates and coach having faith in me,” he said, shrugging like he’d just gone to the dentist for a cleaning. “I wanted that shot. If you want to be the best you can be, you step up at that moment and make it happen.”

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Ultimately this game was all about history, 1975 style. East’s re-evolution into a championship team took 31 years. Gerald Ford was in the White House, Jackie Blue was on the radio and East coach Greg McKenzie was a middle school wiseguy in High Point the last time the Mustangs left this party with the best-looking girl — the championship trophy.

“Yeah, but you know what’s fantastic about tonight?” McKenzie offered, flashing a smile as big as Times Square. “Gilbert Sprinkle is here. He was the coach the last time East won this thing, and he came up and congratulated me as soon as it ended. Think about that. There’s a lot of pride when you win here. It means a lot in the community. But to me, that’s what it’s all about.

That says it all.”

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Kindly allow McKenzie and the Mustangs to bask in the warm glow of their accomplishment. It’s been said that most things wonderful aren’t meant to last, that history will soon relegate them to the back pages of some dusty old text book. Perhaps that’s true — and that’s what makes moments like these so special.

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Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisburypost.com.

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