Gallagher column: County tradition continues

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2009

Roaming the county getting ready for tonight …
This should not be a big surprise to Rowan County basketball fans, but there will be two boys teams playing in sectional finals tonight.
In 2A, Salisbury (28-1) travels to East Lincoln (25-4). In 3A, West Rowan (25-3) goes to High Point Andrews (23-4).
Throw in the Salisbury girls, who won at Ashe County last night, and the county has three teams still alive.
The winners of tonight’s 7 p.m. contests head to the Western Regionals next week.
Sectional finals seem the norm around here. Salisbury’s boys have made it to back-to-back finals, and West Rowan is in its fourth straight.
“When I was younger, I knew about Fred Campbell and Bryan Withers at Salisbury, then Bob Hundley’s teams at North with Ralph Kitley and the Keslers, and on up to Snip Keaton and Joel Fleming at West,” Salisbury coach Jason Causby said. “I can’t think of a time when Rowan County didn’t have somebody in the sectional finals.”
Mike Gurley, who coaches West, called the sectional finals “the door that leads to great possibilities.” He would love for both his team and Salisbury to make it to the next round. Gurley and Causby have met once this season with Salisbury beating the Falcons in the Sam Moir Christmas Classic final.
“I have a lot of respect for Salisbury after the way they performed in the Christmas tournament,” Gurley said. “It made me a fan the rest of the year.”
Causby coaches the top-ranked 2A team in the state and meets a talented East Lincoln club led by 6-foot-6 Keith Rendleman, a leaper who averages 22 points per game. He is headed to UNC Wilmington.
“He can probably make change on top of the backboard like David Thompson used to,” Causby said. “A lot of the stuff he gets is on offensive rebounds. It will be a challenge keeping him off the glass.”
Causby has also been impressed with guard Spenser Sydney, who transferred in at Christmas.
“Their last two games, they’ve been the only players in double figures,” Causby said.
Causby said his team is healthy. Brandon Abel and Darien Rankin suffered recent ankle sprains, but Rankin won the CCC tournament championship game against Lexington with a buzzer beater. Abel scored a career-high 31 points two days ago against Wilkes Central.
“We’re as healthy as we’ve been in two weeks,” Causby said.
Despite being the No. 1 team and sporting a better record, Salisbury has to travel because of the NCHSAA’s seeding priority.
All eight teams left in the Western half of the 2A boys bracket are top seeds from their respective leagues.
“I wish the state would go back to neutral sites for sectional finals,” said Causby, a West Rowan graduate who was on sectional teams that played at Davidson at Pfeiffer. “I remember what an awesome experience it was. It’s a neat thing.”
Sectional finals are not new to Gurley, and neither is the team West faces tonight.
Following consecutive state titles in 2002 and 2003, the Falcons have missed out on the 3A Western Regional by one game. Gurley is 2-2 against Andrews, with three encounters coming in the sectionals and one in the regionals.
It will be interesting to see how West performs. It is coming off an intense win at Ragsdale on Wednesday.
“We spent a lot of emotion and energy against Ragsdale,” Gurley said. “We now need to be physically, emotionally and mentally tougher than we were on Wednesday night.”
In the Gurley regime, West won its first two playoff games against Andrews. The Raiders have won the last two, including a 73-56 verdict two seasons ago. Last year, the Falcons lost 79-63 to Hickory.
Two of the Raiders from a couple of years ago ó Tony Washington and Charles Goodwin ó are now Andrews veterans.
“First of all, Andrews is as good as Ragsdale,” Gurley said. “They’re a very quick, strong, athletic, well-coached basketball team.”
With wins tonight, Gurley and Causby can meet again ó in less stressful conditions ó at the Western Regional press conference Monday.
“If I do see him there,” Causby said, “it means I’ve done something right.”
On the air tonight …
The dynamic duo of Howard Platt and The Coach, Bob Parker, will call the Andrews-West Rowan game on WSTP 1490-AM.
Go to a basketball game tonight, folks. And be nice.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or