Salisbury boys 59, West Rowan 52
By David Shaw
MOUNT ULLA — Perhaps this wasn’t the ideal time to face Salisbury’s boys basketball team.
Still smarting from Monday’s embarrassing loss to North Rowan, the Hornets vented their frustration Wednesday night at West Rowan.
“The North game (a 75-60 loss) was one of those that you just have to pick up and chew,” senior Darien Rankin said after SHS played a strong fourth quarter and fled the scene with a 59-52 non-conference victory. “We couldn’t let that happen again.”
Rankin and teammate John Knox each contributed 14 points as Salisbury (7-4) won a rugged, back-and-forth decision — a sharp contrast to the 16-point loss it handed the Falcons (4-8) last month.
“They were better tonight,” said Knox, who scored nine points in the pivotal final period. “They played with a lot more confidence, from beginning to end. They were aggressive.”
West received 15 points from Keshun Sherrill, the rangy shooter who sat out the last 6:56 after injuring his right hip on a scoop layup.
“I came down, hit the floor and the pain just shot through me,” he said. “Coach (Mike Gurley) didn’t want to get me hurt, so I came out of the game.”
That basket pulled West within 40-39 and when teammate Jarvis Morgan went coast-to-coast for a layup a minute later, the Falcons had their final lead of the game.
“Right after that,” Gurley reported, “we turned the ball over three times in a row. When we had a chance to go ahead, they went ahead. Those turnovers turned the game around. That’s a tough deal to swallow.”
Instead of West positioning itself to pull an upset, Salisbury used a 10-1 scoring spree to take control. It began when center Alex Weant hit a soft layup from the left baseline, continued when Knox turned a steal into a jailbreak layup and concluded when Tion McCain hit a spinning layup and completed a three-point play with 2:55 remaining.
“You know, we felt like we made some poor decisions early,” said winning coach Justin Morgan. “But in the fourth quarter we made the right decisions. Fortunately for us, that’s when it mattered most.”
Down the stretch Knox drove for a pair of baskets and the Hornets sank five of eight free throws.
“This was a good game to get us back on track,” he said afterward. “Now we’re ready for our conference.”
Sherrill, for one, believes Salisbury is ready for anything.
“They are very physical team,” he said. “They get up on you and force you to make plays. That’s what happened in the fourth quarter. They started executing, went to their leaders and were making shots and getting to the line.”
Defending Sherrill was a key.
“He was our focus,” said Rankin. “We were trying to keep him away from the ball and away from the basket. Last time he dropped 27 (points) on us because he got in the lane a lot. Tonight we tried to put one man on him and keep pressure on him the whole game.”
Despite the outcome, many in the crowd sensed they were witnessing West’s coming-of-age performance. The young and inexperienced Falcons spent 32 minutes eating at the big kids’ table.
“I think we do grow up in big games,” said Gurley. “Sometimes it’s growing pains instead of growing up.”
Same goes for Salisbury, champions of the recent Sam Moir Christmas Classic. Morgan said he purposely put the Hornets through a difficult practice on Tuesday and placed a renewed emphasis on defense.
“We went back over everything,” he explained. “We recommitted to being a defense-first team. And tonight, that’s what you saw. When you play defense like we did, it’s always a plus.”
SALISBURY (59) — Knox 14, Rankin 14, McCain 9, Rivens 8, Weant 5, Murphy 5, Petty 2, Adams 2, Morris, Wilkins.
WEST ROWAN (52) — K.Sherrill 15, B.Sherrill 15, Morgan 10, Martin 5, Edwards 3, Warren 2, Kraft 2, Parks, Avery, Turner, Cuthbertson.
Salisbury 16 9 13 21 — 59
W. Rowan 15 11 11 15 — 52