Prep basketball: West 124, East 92
By Mike London
GREENSBORO ó Upbeat Howard West joked that the record-setting romp that unfolded in the East-West All-Star Game was the result of his slick coaching moves, but his assistant, Greg McKenzie, hit the nail on the head.
“What we had was great player selection,” said McKenzie, 95-41 in five seasons at East Rowan but uncertain where he’ll be coaching next month. “We had good leaders. We had good players. We had good guys. We also were fortunate a lot of our guys had played together before ó in camps or AAU.”
The West team had huge edges in size, muscle and cohesiveness at Greensboro Coliseum on Monday night and drilled the East 124-92. It was the most lopsided all-star contest since a Pete Maravich-led East squad rolled 110-79 in 1965. The West’s 124 points broke the team scoring record that had stood since 1987.
West Rowan’s 6-foot-7 K.J. Sherrill finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks and was nipped for MVP honors by Mount Tabor guard Michael Grace, who had 16 points and five assists. Sherrill likely offered the best performance any Rowan player’s has ever had in the East-West game.
“I was out there playing for MVP,” said the relentless Sherrill, who is headed to Charlotte. “But I’m not mad that a teammate got it. What’s important is we won.”
Sherrill wowed his coaches with his work ethic as well as his obvious talent. Monday’s game was over by halftime with the West leading 61-34. Sherrill had 11 points, eight boards and four blocks at the break.
“K.J. never took a minute off this week, but no surprise there ó he’s a product of Mike Gurley, and Mike’s kids will go hard,” West said. “K.J. was a joy to be around. He tries hard to do what you ask him to do, and he’s got enough talent to go out and get it done.”
Davie’s 5-10 Drew Absher, a roster replacement, showed he wasn’t out of place on the floor with some of the state’s best. He handled the ball smoothly, made sharp passes inside and drilled his first four jumpers, including three 3-pointers, for 11 points.
“Tonight was the highlight of my career,” said Absher whose next stop is The Gunnery, a tiny prep school in Connecticut. “I hit that first shot (an open 15-footer) and it got me going. I was playing with guys who are my friends. Everyone was shooting the ball well. Everyone was sharing the ball. Everyone had their time. Great night.”
Absher was matched up with a taller, springier player every second he was on the floor, but he thrived. He made two steals and avoiding getting dunked on. He played off the ball most of the time on offense. He didn’t take any bad shots. Nor did he miss any open ones.
He hit one step-back, Larry-Birdish 3 after a clever dribble created space between himself and noted leaper Zach Faircloth.
“Drew is small so what you do is run him off screens and give him opportunities to show his talent,” West said. “It’s tough to keep Drew down. He can shoot. He’ll find a way to beat ya.”
Absher and his teammates didn’t have to search hard for ways to beat the East.
Sherrill, 6-9 Julius Brooks, 6-7 Kyle Gaillard and 6-7 Keith Rendleman controlled the paint. North Meck’s Gaillard had a slam-contest-worthy entry that brought down the house late in the first quarter. At times, the West squad played volleyball on the glass.”I can’t say enough about K.J. inside,” Absher said. “He was dunking everything, blocking everything.”
Sherrill rolled in one soft jump-hook, but he was looking for power, not finesse, and all of his 220 pounds is muscle.
The No. 3 scorer in West Rowan history did most of his damage on second and third efforts. He opened the night’s scoring with a high-energy stickback and closed it with a satisfying dunk.
“It was a great experience playing in this game,” he said. “Our guards did a great job. We had a height advantage, and they just had to throw it up there. Absher was good. He sees the floor.”
Sherrill said it was fun being coached by McKenzie, who piloted East against West in a number of intense encounters.
“We got along fine,” Sherrill said with a laugh. “Good coach.”
McKenzie won more than his share at East but ne never had the chance to coach a player with Sherrill’s size and talent. Not until last night.
“I loved having K.J. on my side,” McKenzie said. K.J. is a workhorse. He ran the floor every possession. He was gonna play as hard as he could until he passed out.”
NOTES: Jaron Lane and Ricky Krainiak led the East with 16 points each. … West Rowan cheerleader Mary Allison Horton got to yell for a few more Sherrill dunks, but another All-State Falcon cheerleader, Dara Reasbeck, missed the game with illness. … MVP Ali Ford (Freedom) scored 20 points to lead the West girls to an 87-77 victory.
EAST (92) ó Lane 16, Krainiak 16, Perez 11, Rusin 11, Faircloth 10, Upchurch 9, Tucker 6, Okoye 6, George 4, Sumler 3.
WEST (124) ó Sherrill 19, Grace 16, Ellison 17, Rendleman 14, Gaillard 13, Absher 11, Harris 11, Brooks 10, Mayo 8, Pittman 5.East 16 18 25 33 ó 92
West 33 28 31 32 ó 124