Throwback Basketball: West Rowan 58, North Meck 54: Donte, Scooter key rally
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — West Rowan fans were thrilled to see post man Donte Minter and McDonald’s All-American guard Scooter Sherrill reunited on a basketball court for the first time since a Western Regional loss to Central Cabarrus in 2000, but the euphoria in the Carson gym turned to major misery in a matter of minutes.
North Meck punched West in the mouth right away, drilling four 3s and bolting to a huge lead in an Alumni Throwback Tournament semifinal, but the defending champs, led by Minter and Sherrill, made a remarkable comeback that produced a 58-54 victory.
“When we were down big, I was just hoping it wouldn’t get too bad,” said the 27-year-old Minter, who played collegiately at Virginia and Appalachian State. “But I’ve played with most of our guys for a long time, and we knew that nobody shoots like they were all night.”
Sherrill, who was a starter at N.C. State before playing overseas, had several open shots early but couldn’t buy one. That put the Falcons in a deep hole.
When North Meck’s Slim Spencer swatted a shot by Sherrill and then scored on the other end to make it 16-2 six minutes into the game, it looked like a long, long night for West.
“They were hitting, and good looks weren’t falling for us,” Sherrill said. “But even at 16-2, you don’t panic. We’ve got a team of veterans and knew there was a whole lot of game left. Then we got it going, and it was anyone’s game.”
Minter and Sherrill, the top two scorers in the history of boys basketball in Rowan County, both accounted for a state championship at West — Sherrill as a freshman in 1997, Minter as a senior in 2002. Between them, they totalled 4,556 points in light blue, and they teamed for 36 more on Friday night. Minter poured in 16 of his 22 in the second half.
Minter doesn’t look quick at all except when he spins, but the 6-foot-8, 250-pound veteran of overseas hoops (he’s headed to Holland next month) calmly, smoothly buried one soft 15-footer after another as West charged back.
“North Meck really had no answer for Donte,” Sherrill said. “He’s good. He’s special. He’s always been like that.”
Where did the comeback start against a team led by former Penn State hero Titus Ivory (13 points)? With a slick pass by Sherrill to Toby Brown, who powered in a layup for West’s first field goal with 12:35 left in the half.
Minter finally got his first hoop amid heavy traffic in the paint to make it 16-6, and North Meck, after an unbelievable barrage of 3-pointers at the outset, was cooling off.
“Well, we found out pretty quick they could shoot the ball,” Minter said. “We realized we had to be more physical, had to make them drive instead of allowing them to shoot the 3s.”
West worked inside-out against North Meck’s zone — a double-teamed Minter kicked back out to an open Sherrill, who promptly buried a 3-pointer to an ovation from the crowd — and the deficit was reduced to 16-15.
Brown put West on top 19-18 with a pair of free throws four minutes before halftime, but the 6-foot-4 Ivory sensed it was time to take over. He and guard Reggie Graham led a burst that put the Vikings on top 25-19 at the break.
West made a concerted effort to get the ball to Minter in the second half, and he kept producing. His jumper tied the game at 33-all. Then Sherrill drilled a 3-pointer to put the Falcons in front 36-33 with 11:45 remaining.
“Their zone gave us a lot of trouble for a while,” Minter said. “But in the second half, we were reading the defense better.”
North Meck used second-half 3s by Ivory, Ramon Hunsucker and Tory New to stay in it, but Minter’s power layup with 7:47 left put the Falcons ahead to stay at 42-40.
West maintained its lead down the stretch, with ballhandler T.J. Gaither, Josh Avery, Sherrill and Brown making key free throws.
“It was great to play with all these guys again,” Sherrill said. “We’ve tried to get a feel for each other with a few practices this week. It paid off.”
West, which won the 2010 tourney title without Sherrill and Minter, will play either South Rowan or Salisbury for the championship tonight. That game is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.
WEST (58)— Minter 22, Sherrill 14, Brown 8, Gaither 7, Maddox 3, Avery 2, C. Cowan 2, H. Cowan, Hogue, Welborn, Cuthbertson.
NORTH MECK (54) — Ivory 13, Graham 12, New 10, L. Patterson 6, Spencer 6, Shamsideen 4, Hunsucker 3, McGill.
West Rowan 19 39 — 58
North Meck 25 29 — 54