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Prep Basketball Playoffs: Rowan teams must travel rugged road to Western Regional

Staff report
Three Rowan teams have enjoyed great basketball seasons and are highly ranked in the state, but as good as Salisbury’s girls and boys and West Rowan’s boys have been, they face a rugged road to qualify for the West Regional.
The brackets aren’t unfair, but they aren’t kind. It won’t be easy for any of the local teams to go 3-0 this week.
All three teams can plan on having to beat a No. 1 seed on the road to qualify for a regional appearance. Chances are good that West’s boys and Salisbury’s girls will have to beat two No. 1s on the road.
Conference tournament games rarely mean a lot, but West Rowan’s loss to Lake Norman in the NPC title game threw the Falcons into a deeper sectional.
Lake Norman has to deal with Concord to make the regional, but Lake Norman would play the Spiders at home because of the NPC’s seeding priority over the SPC.
Seventh-ranked West (23-3) is unbeaten at home and is favored to handle an athletic but small A.L. Brown team in Mount Ulla tonight in the first round.
Brown has slick, high-scoring guard Smoke Phifer and a double-double machine in 6-foot-3 Jacob Newman, but the Wonders will have their hands full with West’s 6-7 K.J. Sherrill, who scored the 1,500th point of his career last week.
West has won 25 of its 40 meetings with the Wonders. West coach Mike Gurley is 16-3 against A.L. Brown and coach Shelwyn Klutz, who took the head job in Kannapolis the same year Gurley arrived in Mount Ulla.
Gurley could get his 274th win at the helm of the Falcons tonight. That would tie him with North’s Bob Hundley for the county record for boys basketball wins.
If no major upsets occur, the Falcons would then go to Jamestown Ragsdale on Wednesday to face a No. 1 seed some experts believe is the best team in the West bracket.
If West Rowan survives its first two games, a trip to High Point Andrews on Friday to face another No. 1 seed is almost a sure thing.
West hasn’t made a regional since it won the 3A title in 2003.
n Salisbury’s girls have been to the regional six straight years, an incredible run, but this is going to be their most difficult haul since they were a Cinderella story in 2003 and had to win multiple road games.
A No. 2 seed for a change, Salisbury (23-3) will be favored to handle East Lincoln at home in the first round on Tuesday. After that, the Hornets figure to pack their bags.
No. 1 seed Ashe County (25-1) looms in the second round. Salisbury beat Ashe two seasons ago in a sectional final and smoked Ashe in a second-round matchup last season but both those meetings were at SHS. It figures to be much tougher to win on Ashe’s home floor in West Jefferson after a long bus ride.
If the third-ranked Hornet girls get through Ashe, their probable opponent is North Stanly, 25-2 and more athletic than it’s been in a while.
Salisbury has beaten North Stanly three times in the sectionals in recent seasons (2004, 2007, 2008), but it was a tough fight last season.
The Hornets would like to get a fourth shot at East Davidson, which has handed them them all three of their losses. That desire could be enough to propel them through a tough sectional.
Salisbury junior Bubbles Phifer could reach 1,000 career points during the playoffs. She has 943.
n Salisbury’s top-ranked boys, winners of 26 straight, haven’t made a regional since 1992 when they had Bobby Jackson and the school’s all-time leading scorer Bobby Phillips on the same team.
That means the Hornets haven’t made a regional appearance during the lifetime of many of coach Jason Causby’s players.
The Hornets open the playoffs tonight at home against South Iredell. You can’t assume anything in the postseason, but if the Hornets take care of business, they’ll be home again Wednesday and will be favored against West Stanly or Wilkes Central.
If the Hornets (26-1) do advance past Wednesday, their most likely opponent Friday is No. 1 seed East Lincoln (23-4), That will be a road game for SHS because of seeding priority.
East Lincoln features 6-6 Keith Rendleman, a UNC Wilmington signee and the school’s all-time leading scorer. He averages 22 points a game and has led his team to 19 straight victories.
Spenser Sydney, a 6-3 guard, is also a heralded player, and EL has more size in 6-6 Drew Spear.
n Carson’s boys make their historic playoff debut tonight at Gastonia Forestview (20-6). The Jaguars are a No. 1 seed.
Carson junior Darius Moose is 17 points away from posting the first 500-point season in school history.
n South Rowan’s girls and boys are playing a doubleheader at Hickory.
Hickory’s boys (24-2) and girls (26-0) are powerhouses and No. 1 seeds, but fourth-seeded South teams will seek to shake up the brackets.
Senior Hunter Morrison, No. 3 all-time scorer at South, leads the Raider boys. His first point tonight will give him the second-highest scoring season in school history. He has scored 514.
Hickory’s star is guard Trevin Parks. The Red Tornadoes knocked West Rowan out of the playoffs last season.
Taylor May leads South’s girls. The senior has 980 career points.
n East’s girls (18-8) got a decent first-round draw. They’ll go to High Point Tuesday to play Southwest Guilford (13-12). East has the better record, but it’s a No. 3 seed while SWG is a No. 2.
The Mustangs have never played Southwest Guilford.
A trip to Indian Trail to take on Porter Ridge (23-3), which beat Concord for the SPC tournament crown, looms for East if it gets past the first round.
East seniors Ashley Collins and Katelynne Poole have combined for 2,244 points. Collins is East’s No. 4 all-time scorer while Poole is sixth.
n In 4A, Davie’s girls play Tuesday night at Greensboro Smith.

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