A.L. Brown boys 43, West Rowan 40
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó A.L. Brown outlasted West Rowan 43-40 on Wednesday at the West gym.
It was basketball ó sort of ó but for a long time it looked like the clash of 3A football powers might come down to a 2-point conversion.
Both teams consisted mostly of athletes who were recently on the football field. While last night’s successful layups brought a level of applause usually reserved for dunks, both teams should be playing solid basketball in a matter of weeks.
West (1-1) shot 19 percent from the field and 45 percent on free throws and still had a shot to pull out the physical affair in the last minute.
“We got good shots and took good shots, but we just didn’t make enough shots,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “I like my team, but this isn’t going to be a beauty pageant this year. This is going to be a reality show, with lots of fire ants and alligators.”
Brown coach Shelwyn Klutz was thrilled to win. He and Gurley have been matching up most of their 13 seasons as head coaches, and this was only the Wonders’ fourth victory in that span.
Brown’s 2008-09 season came to a screeching halt in the first round of the playoffs in West’s gym so this was a little bit of payback. Brown’s win also denied West the 800th victory in school history.
“I know West is behind because of football and we’ve had a little bit more time in the gym,” Klutz said. “But no matter what the circumstances, you’ve accomplished something when you win a basketball game in this gym. Gurley’s guys crashed the boards and they competed hard. We knew it would be a grind, and we did just enough to win.”
Gurley joked he almost inserted his girlfriend into the game for offense. Both coaches spent the night figuring out some way to score.
Brown, which had three All-SPC football players in its starting lineup, got almost all of its points from guards Jaques Deese (15 points) and Tevin Jones. Desmond Gray, Zach Fesperman and Terrance Knox grabbed key rebounds.
Domonique Noble scored 10 points to lead West. B.J. Sherrill and KaJuan Phillips contributed eight each. All three were on the football field Saturday.
“This was our third day of basketball,” Gurley said. “The thing we could’ve done better is get more 50-50 balls. A lot of times, they beat us by a half-step.”
West forced 10 turnovers in the first half, but the Wonders got to the foul line frequently and took a 24-20 halftime lead.
The teams combined to shoot 5-for-26 in the third quarter, and Brown took a 30-29 lead to the final eight minutes.
The Wonders (3-2) led 34-31 when Phillips started pounding the offensive glass. He hit two free throws, then got a stickback after Noble missed a dunk. That gave the Falcons a 35-34 lead with three minutes to go.
West applied pressure, but Brown beat it, and Damien Washington spotted Gray, a linebacker not long ago, loose in the lane.
“I didn’t think Damien would throw me that pass, but he did,” Gray said. “Then I had to go up strong.”
Gray made an acrobatic shot, the biggest of the game. He floated from the left side of the hoop to the right and kissed the ball off the glass for a 36-35 edge. It was the last lead change.
“It’s been rough getting back to basketball ó a lot of suicides ó but we’re playing well as a team,” Gray said.
On West’s next possession, Gray gave up his body and drew a huge charge.
Two free throws and a jumper by Deese, two free throws by Ian Rogers and a defensive stop by Jones allowed Brown to build a six-point lead. Keshun Sherrill rolled in a late 3 for the Falcons to cut the final margin to 43-40.
“It’s a tough loss, but we did play very good defense,” said West veteran Maxx Gore, who hit a 3-pointer. “Probably it was the missed free throws that killed us most.”
A.L. Brown (43) ó Deese 15, T. Jones 12, J. Jones 4, Rogers 4, Gray 2, Watts 2, Smith 2, Carr 1, Knox 1, Falls, Fesperman, Reynolds, Washington.
west rowan (40) ó Noble 10, B.J. Sherrill 8, Phillips 8, K. Sherrill 7, Gore 3, Cuthbertson 2, Warren 2, Crucitti,Phifer, Wood, Turner.
A.L. Brown 15 9 6 13 ó 43
W. Rowan 9 11 9 11 ó 40