West Rowan 59, East Rowan 47
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — Clad in his familiar light blue vest, West Rowan coach Mike Gurley sweated his way to his 300th win at the helm of the Falcons on Thursday.
Without high-scoring Keshun Sherrill (hip) and with super athlete Domonique Noble (knee) still hobbled, West held off East Rowan 59-47 for an NPC victory. Senior B.J. Sherrill led the second-place Falcons (5-8, 3-1) with 21 bruising points, one short of his career high.
“Fitting that it was a Sherrill that led us to that 300th,” Gurley said. “B.J. is the one experienced guy we’ve got left, and we were fortunate he came to play. We’ve gotten a lot out of Sherrills.”
Scooter, K.J., Keshun and B.J, just to name a few.
East (0-12, 0-4 NPC) made quite a second-half comeback after managing a dismal seven points in the first half. It was the 28th straight loss for East, dating back to last season, but there were encouraging signs for coach Trey Ledbetter’s squad.
“These guys have shown me that they’re not going to give up in any situation,” Ledbetter said.
Gurley has maintained a sense of humor for most of his 300 victories and 82 losses, and he joked that watching his battered team trying to play defense in the fourth quarter constituted some of the worst moments of his life.
West got through it, withstanding an 18-point second half by East guard Hakeem Gittens, who started scoring from everywhere.
“Bad first half, but we didn’t give up on the game,” Gittens said. “Lots of guys stepped up after halftime.”
East couldn’t have shot any worse in the first half, and West enjoyed a 19-0 run to take a 25-2 lead midway through the second quarter. When Jared Hough sank a 3 for East to finally stop the bleeding, even West fans felt like turning cartwheels.
“We missed Josh Gobble (concussion) and West overmatched us on the boards some,” Ledbetter said. “But the shots we were getting in the first half were the shots we dream about getting. We just couldn’t make anything.”
West led 29-7 at the break, but Gurley’s been around long enough to know it wasn’t quite over. B.J. Sherrill knew it too.
“B.J. told me No. 11 (Hough) was playing so hard it was unbelievable,” Gurley said. “He said No. 11 didn’t care what the score was.”
East fell behind 37-9 early in the second half. That was rock bottom. But Weston Rogers hit a 3-pointer, and a rally ignited. Another 3 by Rogers made it 45-25 at the end of the third quarter.
Then Gittens turned into Kobe Bryant — nine points in about two minutes. West’s lead was suddenly just 49-38, and it was a ballgame.
“You make a few shots, you get momentum, and then you start doing everything else better,” Ledbetter said.
Back-to-back buckets by Devin Parks halted East’s surge. Then West executed perfectly on an inbounds play that had Sherrill, West’s football quarterback, firing what looked a lot like a touchdown pass to a wide-open Jarvis Morgan, one of his favorite receivers. That play was the backbreaker.
While his team got a scare in the second half, Gurley appreciated it. No. 300 wouldn’t have meant nearly as much had it been a cakewalk.
“I could talk about things we didn’t do, but really you have to give all the credit to Coach Ledbetter and his guys for that second half,” Gurley said. “You can see what he’s building over there.”
Gurley’s already built a dynasty, but he faces life without Keshun Sherrill for at least two weeks and he may not have Noble for another month. He drew on a horseracing analogy.
“ I feel like Seabiscuit, like they keep adding all this extra weight for me to carry as a handicap,” Gurley said with a sigh. “But I’ve won 300 games here because of a lot of great assistants, great players and great administrators. We’ll keep on plugging. We won’t stop competing.”
EAST ROWAN (47) — Gittens 18, W. Rogers 14, A.Rogers 7, Hough 3, Honeycutt 3, Shepherd 2, Curlee, Driver, Holmes.
WEST ROWAN (59) — B. Sherrill 21, Morgan 11, Warren 9, Parks 6, Turner 5, Martin 5, Kraft 2, Avery, Cuthbertson, Phifer, Edwards.
E. Rowan 2 5 18 22 — 47
W. Rowan 19 10 16 14 — 59