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Moir boys preview: West, Salisbury look strong

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
Major drama is anticipated in the boys bracket of the Sam Moir Christmas Classic that begins this afternoon at Goodman Gym.
Often there’s a clear-cut team to beat in the field, but this time there are two teams with the potential to emerge as state contenders.
Top-seeded West Rowan got a late start due to the school’s football success, but the Falcons are deep and physical. West, led by 6-foot-7 Charlotte signee K.J. Sherrill, enters the tournament 6-0.Coach Mike Gurley hasn’t stormed into Goodman Gym undefeated since 2002. His teams won the tournament in 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2005.
While there’s a lot of hype about the Falcons, there’s an equal amount of buzz surrounding second-seeded Salisbury, which has reeled off eight straight wins since it was surprised by South Rowan on opening night.
Salisbury’s 73-21 victory over Central Davidson, touted as one of the teams to beat in the CCC, got everyone’s attention. Senior Brandon Abel and sophomore Darien Rankin have combined for 35 points a game, and Thaddeus Williams has enjoyed a sensational start running the show for a team that has thrived in both open-court and halfcourt tempos.
Salisbury, the defending champion, has provided the bulk of the excitement in the tournament the last two years with a double-overtime loss to East Rowan in the 2006 championship game and an overtime victory against East in a 2007 semifinal.
West (50-34, 10 championships) and Salisbury (52-34, 11 championships) have been the two dominant teams in the tournament over the years.
While it’s likely the Hornets and Falcons will settle another title in front of a packed house Tuesday night, there are no guarantees. As Davie coach Mike Absher said last week, “Rowan doesn’t have any bad teams this year.”
Or inexperienced coaches. There are a lot of veterans who have been part of championship celebrations. Salisbury’s Jason Causby broke through in the Moir last year. East’s Greg McKenzie won in 2006. Absher won in 2003 and 2004. North Rowan’s Kelly Everhart won in 2000.
No. 3 seed South has no size, but coach John Davis’ club has to be taken seriously because it’s the only team that beat Salisbury. Point guard Hunter Morrison is outstanding and creates a lot of offense for teammates. If South’s other guys make open 3s, the Raiders won’t be easy to beat.
No. 4 seed East (4-4) has been considerably better than expected. Daniel Plummer has emerged as one of the county’s top 10 players. Salisbury handled East easily, but everyone else has had its hands full.
No. 5 seed Carson won three straight, including victories over Mooresville and Statesville, before its current three-game losing skid. The East-Carson first-round matchup should be fun. The Mustangs have already beaten the Cougars, who are coached by East alum Brian Perry.
No. 6 seed Davie, which has already played 10 games, is 0-3 against Salisbury and West. Absher’s team often plays near its peak in this tournament, however, and he coaxed his team into the final last year. Davie and South are old enemies from South’s time in the 4A CPC.
North, the No. 7 seed, has gone through lean times. The Cavaliers are 0-6 in the Moir the last three years and haven’t made a final since 2000.
Still, the miraculous comeback the Cavaliers nearly pulled off at West energized the team. Everhart’s club enters tonight’s contest with rival Salisbury on a two-game winning streak.
Eighteen games (nine boys, nine girls) will be played today, Monday and Tuesday. Daily admission is $6. It’s $3 for ages 5-12.

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