Prep hoops: West Rowan 71, Ragsdale 63
By Mike London
JAMESTOWN ó Dominique Noble sprinted off the West Rowan bench as the final second ticked off, and he threw himself into the arms of a grinning K.J. Sherrill.
Sherrill didn’t drop him. By that point, he’d gotten used to carrying his teammates.
Sherrill was fantastic Wednesday night, scoring 17 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Falcons won 71-63 at Ragsdale in a monumental second-round game in the 3A bracket.
Emotional West fans were still chanting the familiar “Fal-cons! Fal-cons!” long after the game ended. It was that intense.
“I can’t say enough about how great Ragsdale is,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “But our guys rose up to the challenge.”
West (25-3) weathered Sherrill’s early foul trouble and a wicked 17-2 run by Ragsdale to advance to a sectional final Friday at High Point Andrews. The signature play was Sherrill’s dunk with 2:21 remaining.
After coming into the backcourt to help out against Ragsdale’s press, he got the ball and couldn’t find a guard. When in doubt ó drive. The big guy put the ball on the floor, smoothly dribbled 55 feet and flushed it home in heavy traffic. The roof came off.
“I’ve been working on my dribbling a lot,” Sherrill said. “On that play, it paid off. We needed it. Ragsdale’s the best team we’ve seen.”
Two minutes before tipoff, blue-clad Falcons bounded into the stands to hug and shake hands with fans who had made the road trip.
They didn’t have to wait long to cheer. Freshman guard Keshun Sherrill, K.J.’s brother, hit 3s on the Falcons’ first two possessions and forced sharply dressed Ragsdale coach Craig Shoemaker, who hadn’t tasted defeat since the Tigers (26-2) fell to Greensboro Day on Jan. 3, to call an early timeout.
West bolted to a 12-5 lead, but K.J. Sherrill sat down with his second personal halfway through the first quarter.
His teammates kept a slim lead as Jordan Kimber and B.J. Sherrill drilled 3-pointers. When K.J. Sherrill returned to the floor with 6:45 left in the half, the Falcons led 23-17.
“I didn’t keep K.J. out long,” Gurley said. “I just felt like this was a game that could get away from us quick without him on the floor.”
Keshun Sherrill finished the first half with 13 points. He didn’t score again, but he helped push West to a 32-26 halftime lead.
Ragsdale nearly overwhelmed the Falcons with a surge in the third quarter. Jay Canty, a 6-foot-5 wing, scored 13 of his 19 points in the quarter. The Tigers shot 9-for-14 and scored 22 points while making just one turnover. West led by 10 points early in the third, but Ragsdale’s 17-2 run wiped out that edge and put the Tigers ahead 43-38.
West senior Myles Moore stopped the run with a 3, but Ragsdale led 48-45 after three quarters.
The Falcons scored the first six points of the final quarter to take charge for good. K.J. Sherrill scored twice inside. B.J. Sherrill drove hard and kissed a shot off the glass that went in, then out, then back in.
After that, K.J. Sherrill just kept scoring. He was 7-for-7 from the floor in the fourth quarter and 11-for-12 in the second half.
“We’d watched West and seen K.J., so we knew he was strong and active, but we had not seen him explode like that or play that far from the basket,” Shoemaker said. “Bodies were flying, and two good teams were competing hard. A key to the game was West was very good at stretching our defense out and getting the ball to K.J.”
Both teams were spent emotionally and physically at the end, but West kept attacking the rim while Ragsdale often settled for jumpers.
Kaleb Kimber had a breakaway slam for West. Moore hit two clutch free throws. Chris Smith and K.P. Parks came up with backbreaking steals.
Several times, Smith hustled from one side of the rim to the other to corral a defensive rebound.
“I tell K.J. to score, and I’ll do the dirty work,” said Smith, who was delighted to end a free-throw drought by swishing one with 29 seconds left. “K.J. turned out tonight.”
He was amazing, and his teammates picked him up when he was sitting down with foul trouble.
Gurley earned his 275th victory at West ó a county record for boys coaches. It was an exhausting, sweaty win he’ll never forget.
“The record is an honor because there have been so many great coaches in Rowan County ó Bob Pharr, Charles Hellard, Sam Gealy, Bob Hundley,” Gurley said. “And this game was unbelievable.”
WEST ROWAN (71) ó K.J. Sherrill 33, Ke. Sherrill 13, B.J. Sherrill 5, Moore 5, K. Kimber 4, J. Kimber 3, Crucitti 3, Parks 2, Grant 2, C. Smith 1.
RAGSDALE (63) ó Canty 19, Roberts 13, Jones 13, White 12, Plummer 6, Alston, Mearite, D. Smith, Horne.W. Rowan 21 11 13 26 ó 71
Ragsdale 13 13 22 15 ó 63
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