Lexington 58, West Rowan 49
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — Close friends don’t relish coaching against each other, but Lexington’s Robert Hairston and West Rowan’s Mike Gurley make an exception once a year on Martin Luther King Day.
“Mike and I talked about it,” Hairston said. “It’s a day to honor Dr. King and all that he did, and it’s just the right day to play each other.”
Hairston and Gurley’s teams staged a classic at Lexington in 2010 that was won by West. Hairston’s team evened the score with a defensive-minded 58-49 victory against the Falcons in Mount Ulla on Monday.
Lexington did it with man-to-man defense, slamming doors in the faces of frustrated Falcons the whole third quarter to take over the game.
That sneaker-to-sneaker defense was no shock to Gurley. Hairston was his assistant and the defensive mastermind on those awesome West teams that won back-to-back 3A state titles and 61 straight games in 2002-03.
“Robert was the architect of those great defenses we had,” Gurley said. “And I guess we got a pretty good dose of his defense today. That was the best man-to-man we’ve seen. They took us out of running any kind of offense at all.”
Obviously, it’s a lot easier to defend the Falcons with star Keshun Sherrill on the shelf. Sherrill will test his hip injury on Thursday. His return date is still uncertain.
Maurice Warren led the Falcons (5-9) with a career-high 13 points, including two on a remarkable reverse layup. Jarvis Morgan fought inside for 13 points to equal his career best. B.J. Sherrill drilled three first-half 3s, but the Yellow Jackets held him to a single point after halftime.
Lexington (5-8) got balanced scoring from Al Challenger (15 points), C.J. Woodberry (12) and Codie Boger (11).
It was 29-29 at halftime, with Lexington bombing away from outside and missing, and Sherrill scoring often enough to keep West in it.
“We’re a pretty good 3-point shooting team, but I thought we settled for too many 3s in the first half, and they weren’t falling,” Hairston. “When they don’t fall, you need to take a look at the next thing.”
Hairston praised West’s 1-2-2 zone, but the Yellow Jackets solved it after halftime.
Lexington turned in a blistering third quarter, shooting 7-for-12 (all 2s) and holding the Falcons to 3-for-12 shooting with stingy man-to-man to build a 44-35 lead.
Boger made an old-fashioned three-point play with Kevin Turner draped all over him to break a 31-31 tie with 6:36 left in the third quarter.
After that, Challenger scored on a slash, Woodberry battled for a stickback, and the Jackets, getting stops on just about every West possession, never looked back.
“It was hard to beat any of their guys off the dribble,” Gurley said. “And if you did beat someone, a shotblocker was coming to help.”
Hairston said his team’s experience — Challenger, Boger, Jerrett McCown and Quandarious Crump seem to have been around forever — and the brutal schedule it’s played , helped make the difference.
“It really was a good game,” Boger said. “The biggest thing was our intensity. We didn’t have it in the first half, but in the second half we did. We got tougher. We got more physical. We picked it up.”
Warren scored 10 points in the final quarter, but West couldn’t make a run.
West couldn’t even put the Jackets on the foul line. The Falcons didn’t receive their fifth team foul until there were just 25 seconds left.
“Lexington’s really athletic, definitely the most athletic team we’ve seen since Salisbury,” Morgan said. “They’ve got five guys jumping out of the gym, and I take my hat off to them. We fought hard, but they just outplayed us in the second half.”
Gurley took the loss calmly and is still optimistic he’ll take the floor with all his horses — Keshun Sherrill and Domonique Noble included — at some point this season.
“I’m not disappointed in my team because we really competed,” he said. “This wasn’t about what the Falcons didn’t do. It was about all the good things that Coach Hairston and Lexington did.”
NOTES: McCown and Woodberry recorded dunks for the Jackets. … West plays South Rowan on Friday. … Lexington welcomes Salisbury tonight for a makeup CCC game that should be interesting. “We know we’ll have to be intense from the start,” Boger said.
LEXINGTON (58) — Challenger 15, Woodberry 12, Boger 11, McCown 9, Crump 7, Holloway 2, Covington 2.
WEST ROWAN (49) — Warren 13, Morgan 13, B. Sherrill 10, Cuthbertson 4, Parks 4, Avery 2, Turner 2, Phifer 1, Edwards, Martin, Laster, Kraft.
Lexington 12 17 15 14 — 58
W. Rowan 15 14 6 14 — 49