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Ronnie Gallagher column: The 2008 Basketball Awards

Any way you slice it, this was a basketball season all about the East Rowan Mustangs.
The boys won 23 games. The girls won 19. That’s a lot of basketball wins at East Rowan.
And those students? My gosh, those students. Dressing up in those wacky outfits for their arch-rival, the West Rowan Falcons? Standing the entire game? Funny chants?
It was a wonderful experience to be a part of.
We remember one Iredell County athletic director mentioning the fact East and South were coming back to 3A. He commented that there wouldn’t be big crowds and he’d lose money when his school played host to East.
We’d be thinking, “East will double your fan base.”
Which turned out to be a true.
But that’s the way it is in basketball-crazy Rowan County. And it’s hoop heaven at all levels. I’d drag assistant sports editor Mike London to seventh-grade games all over the county and we marveled at how big the crowds were. There were more people at these games than we saw at a lot of high school contests.

As far as the East Rowan success, perhaps we should thank Brian Hinson. The big ol’ first-year football coach instilled a winning mentality during the fall and it carried over. And now that hoops season is over, we can probably thank Brian Hightower for keeping the winning ways continuing in baseball. Heck, baseball might just end up being the most successful sport at East.

But we’ll get to the award-winning Hightower later.
This is all about basketball today.
I remember a story told to me by West coach Mike Gurley, who, while watching his team warm up before a home game, gazed around the gym. He saw newspaper reporter David Shaw sitting behind the scorer’s table. He saw Howard Platt and Bob Parker preparing for radio duty on WSTP. He saw photographer Jon Lakey standing under the basket.
And he saw a full house of maniacs ready to cheer on his Falcons.
Gurley said he knew then what a lucky man he was to be a coach in Rowan County.
And we’re lucky enough to give out awards each year ó the awards the athletic banquets might forget:
Team Of The Year: East Rowan’s boys. Was there a more exciting bunch to watch as they drilled threes on everyone?
The Overcheivement Award: West’s boys were called a one-man team. There was K.J. Sherrill … and a bunch of role players. They obviously played their role well. West won 21 times.
Game Of The Year: Salisbury’s 87-83 overtime win against East Rowan in the semifinals of the Sam Moir Christmas Classic.
Best Start: The Salisbury girls won their first two games of the season by a combined score of 130-34.
Best Fans: All four NPC schools, Carson, South, West and East had their moments.
Fan Favorite: The East gym would erupt every time Joe Ponds was inserted.
Mr. Clutch Award: Salisbury’s Thaddeus “Prime Time” Williams drilled a 3-pointer in the final seconds to beat Lexington 60-57.
Best Turnaround: West’s girls were 3-6 in their first nine NPC games and 7-2 in the last nine.
Which leads us to …
Best Description: London wrote of the Falcon girls: “At times, they play lockdown defense and run the floor like Salisbury. A minute later, they look as lost as Hansel and Gretel in the forest.”
Most Dominating Performance: How much better was McKenzie’s Mustangs than Mooresville in their first meeting? East was outscored 27-9 in the fourth quarter and still won by 26.
Best Dunks: At North Iredell, West’s Sherrill took a pass from Clay Browning and soared.
Shaw wrote: “Sherrill dunked like he was mad at the rim.”
– At Concord, East’s Kevin Hubbard went up for a rebound and slammed.
London wrote: “It would have won the NBA Dunk contest hands down.”
The Score-Bored Award: North’s girls scored only 23 points in a loss to Davie ó a game the teams combined for only 59 points. “We’ve got to find some offense somewhere, and find it quick,” sighed North coach Mike White.
Rush Hour Award: Carson students stormed the court in China Grove after a 51-41 win over South and South’s students stormed the court after a 44-42 win over Carson in Landis.
The In The Zone Award: East’s Lisa Hill went wild in a win against Mooresville, scoring 11 of her career-high 15 points during a short stretch of the third quarter.
Emotional Moment Of The Year: After being out all year with a back injury, West’s Kaleb Kimber hit a 3-pointer against West Iredell, sending a packed house rocking the Gurley Dome.
Most Disappointing Loss: Carson’s boys led West Iredell by 26 points ó and lost by seven.
Most Underrated Player: Big names Brandon Abel and Ibn Ali got most of the pub, but Salisbury couldn’t have won the CCC tournament and Moir titles without Terrell Allison.
Which leads us to …
Biggest Injustice: Allison was snubbed in the voting for all-Christmas tournament and all-conference.
Best Cheerleaders: I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole.
Best Game In A Losing Effort: South’s Reid Shaver poured in 30 against Salisbury.
And finally …
Most Photogenic: A total of 172 different players and coaches from 12 girls and boys teams had their names in a cutline under at least one Post photo. East’s big three of Justin Vanderford, Kenan McKenzie and Shawn Eagle combined for a whopping 75. Salisbury’s Bubbles Phifer led all girls with 23.
The most photographed coach was Salisbury’s Jason Causby with 14.
Rowan County basketball always makes the fans smile. And that’s good. You never know when Lakey or Wayne Hinshaw might be pointing that camera at you.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypost.com.

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