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Mike London column: Top games of 2006

We often trudge back to the office at 10:45 p.m. after a road trip, slump down in front of our keyboards, and the first words out of our cynical sportswriter mouths are, “Wow, ugly game.”

Or in the case of a basketball doubleheader: “Wow, two ugly games.”

But there are still flowers among the weeds.

Fans who paid $6 to watch a day of the Moir Classic got $666 worth of entertainment from the Salisbury-West and Salisbury-East boys games.

The year we just put to bed was my 13th at the Post, and I can’t recall one with more unexpected and more courageous performances turned in by Rowan athletes.

Everyone expected West’s All-State monster Tristan Dorty to lead the world in sacks, but who expected Salisbury’s Kwameshia Hicks to smoke Smoky Mountain in the Western Regional girls basketball final?

Or for North’s Daniel Griffith to break records as a rookie varsity QB.

Or for stocky reserve back Jamelle Cuthbertson to hop off the bench and dominate Catawba’s last two football games. Talk about being patient and seizing the opportunity when it comes along.

Who bet on South Rowan’s Legion team to get magical performances from Rudy Brown, Justin Lane and Walker Snow and knock off 2005 state runner-up Lexington in a playoff series?

Did anyone other than coach Brian Hightower and the kid’s immediate family believe East’s Trey Holmes would out-duel West legend Wade Moore in the Easter baseball tournament final?

And everyone knows East’s Kurt Misenheimer can shoot, but who expected him to nail seven 3s in one statement-making game by the Mustangs at West Forsyth?

As for courage, South’s Brittany Moore was smiling and digging volleyballs off the floor a few days before she underwent brain surgery. Anyone watching had to open a fresh box of Kleenex.

Fans saw East’s Brittany Cornelius make game-winning putbacks with her left hand after her right wrist was broken in a summer-camp game. They watched Salisbury basketball star Ashley Watkins treat a separated shoulder as if it were a mosquito bite.

Catawba’s All-SAC football center Will Reedy looked like a mummy, with multiple mangled body parts, but he never took a down off.

It was a year of upsets. Livingstone’s lone football win for ex-coach Robert Massey came against Bowie State in Charlotte and came right out of the blue.

It was a year of celebrations, with a half-dozen players scoring the 1,000th point of their basketball careers. Scoring 1,000 seems incredible, but North’s Sophilia Hipps scored No. 2,000 last winter on her way to breaking the school record.

There was also heartbreak. Rowan County’s American Legion baseball team lost an epic series to Kannapolis on a bad hop and a hit batsman in the last inning of the last game.

Salisbury’s girls basketball team was one second away from its second state championship.

It was also the year of a new school, and Jesse Carson’s Cougars rallied past North Rowan for their first boys basketball victory when Brandon Ferguson scored 24 second-half points in a Moir tournament game.

Asked to compile a list of 12 memorable games, I thought it would be a routine task — until my preliminary list reached 50. That forced me to trim the roster to games I saw personally.

No. 1

Dec. 29, Boys basketball

East 71, Salisbury 64

The first double-overtime Moir championship game and East’s first title since it beat South in OT in 1975.

Doug Campbell vs. Justin Vanderford. Spenser Davis vs. Ibn Ali. Kenan McKenzie vs. Joe Allen. A classic.

No. 2

June 13, Legion baseball

Rowan Co. 13, Kannapolis 5

A game as strange as a man having a baby.

Kannapolis pitcher Garrett Sherrill dominated for eight innings, but his team came unglued in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Ross Steedley, who hadn’t played in nearly three weeks because of a hand injury, had a game-tying double off Sherrill to trigger Rowan’s 11-run ninth at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium.

No. 3

Oct. 5, Football

South 29, R.J. Reynolds 14

South was 0-6 and receiving votes as the worst team in county history when it went on the road and pummeled Reynolds on a full-moon Thursday night for coach Jason Rollins’ first victory.

No. 4

Feb. 17, Boys basketball

East 77, Mt. Tabor 74

East built a 23-point halftime lead with a flawless first half, then hung on to beat the talented Spartans in the CPC tourney championship game.

No. 5

Jan. 3, Girls basketball

North 62, E. Davidson 61

Hipps scored her 2,000th point, Sierra Ingram played brilliantly, and North won on Shemieka Brown’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The victory enabled the Cavaliers to share the CCC regular-season title for the first time.

No. 6

March 13, Baseball

Salisbury 4, East 1

Salisbury’s baseball team winning in Granite Quarry is man-bites-dog stuff, but Salisbury left-hander Lee Dupre put it on his shoulders, threw a no-hitter and survived shaky defense behind him.

The game was a microcosm of Salisbury’s season. The Hornets won a CCC tournament game despite being no-hit and won a state-playoff game with one hit.

No. 7

Sept. 15, Football

West 23, Salisbury 13

Sheer intensity, and both teams showed why they would win 11 games.

West freshman back K.P. Parks and little safety Justin Avery made the game-changing plays.

No. 8

Feb. 24, Girls basketball

Salisbury 37, W. Stanly 22

Salisbury trailed 11-2 early, then held West Stanly to 11 points the rest of the way in a sectional final.

The Colts scored seven points during the last three quarters. That’s defense.

No. 9

May 19, Softball

East 3, Hopewell 2

Morgan Peeler hit a two-run, game-swinging homer and struck out 13 in the first round of the 4A playoffs. Rebecca Cooper scored the winning run on a passed ball.

No. 10

April 13, Baseball

West 5, NW Cabarrus 2

A three-run, walk-off homer by Brett Hatley produced the victory that enabled the Falcons to share the NPC title.

No. 11

Feb. 13, Girls basketball

N. Davidson 59, South 46

There were no dry eyes after South’s Tiffany Thomas, who played on a 1-22 team her junior year, scored her 1,000th point in the last quarter of her last game. Thomas needed 19. She got 24.

No. 12

March 5, College baseball

Catawba 11, Wingate 10

After trailing 7-0, Catawba got even on relief pitcher Zach Evans’ three-run homer on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth. Catawba won in the 10th on Casey Morris’ hit.

*

Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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