Throwback Basketball: West Rowan 66, South Rowan 56
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — South Rowan looked downright weary down the stretch in a 66-56 championship game loss to West Rowan in the 2nd edition of the Scooter Sherrill Alumni Throwback Tournament.
“We’re not ready to rename this the West Rowan Invitational yet,” joked Sherrill, who worked tirelessly to put on the tournament and then starred in it. “But maybe if we win another two or three, we’ll have to think about it.”
South was playing its second game Saturday when it fell short against the Falcons, while defending champ West only played once, but South’s Steve Heggins wasn’t looking for excuses.
“I work six days a week in 105-degree temperatures,” said Heggins, who toils in his family’s auto detailing business. “So it wasn’t like I got tired. Fatigue wasn’t the factor. The factor was that big guy over there.”
That “big guy” was West lefty Donte Minter, 6-foot-8 and 250 or so pounds.
While West’s still svelte, dynamic and charismatic Sherrill and South rubber-band-man Carlos Dixon staged an epic battle on the perimeter that was a standoff, the immense presence of Minter decided the championship.
He had 23 points and 15 rebounds.
“From 15 feet and in,” shrugged South’s Jason Cross, “he doesn’t miss.”
Cross, a hero when South won its last Sam Moir Christmas Classic back in 1996, played linebacker at Catawba and owns the arms of a blacksmith, but his attempts to box out Minter weren’t always successful. The 6-1 Cross caught an accidental elbow to the eye during one physical flurry. Minter apologized to Cross profusely — but he didn’t feel so badly that he stopped scoring.
“Minter is just a great player,” Heggins said. “His footwork for a big man is just ridiculously good. There’s just not much we could do to stop him.”
The 6-foot-2 Sherrill accepted the challenge of defending the 6-7 Dixon, who stars in a Japanese pro league. Sherrill was stunned to receive a personal foul 30 seconds into the contest — it’s his tournament, after all — but he kept Dixon (24 points) from killing the Falcons.
“I battled Carlos in high school and I knew I’d have to battle him again tonight,” Sherrill said. “He’s so tall and so long and jumps so high that I can’t challenge his shot. All I can do is stay in front of him and hope he misses.”
Dixon didn’t make any 3s, and he missed more jumpers than usual. Heggins scored 14 points and Cross hit two 3-pointers, but Dixon knew he had to carry the load for South. The former Virginia Tech standout had been phenomenal in victories against North Rowan and Salisbury that put South in the title game.
“Carlos is so tough,” Minter said. “I mean, that’s a 6-7 guy who can handle the ball like a point guard.”
South jumped ahead 15-5 with Cross, Heggins and Josh Chapman burying early 3s, but West looked to Minter and methodically caught up. When Minter stuck back a teammate’s airball, it was 19-19. Sherrill, who also scored 23 points, drilled one of his three 3s late in the half and pushed West to a 31-27 lead at the break.
Sherrill was everywhere as the second half began, even taking a charge on a driving Heggins. West soared ahead by 11, but then Dixon took over, backing down Sherrill into the lane and getting to the foul line. South led 50-49 after a Dixon free throw with 4:25 remaining.
But Minter followed his own miss to put the Falcons ahead to stay at 51-50, and Chavis Cowan made an acrobatic catch in the lane and converted a three-point play for a four-point lead.
With South trailing 57-54 with 1:26 left, Chapman missed an open 3 for a tie, and a quick Toby Brown layup ignited a fierce West sprint to the finish line.
“It was a good game and a great tournament,” Sherrill said. “The competition was tough. Look at North — they won three games today and weren’t even in the final. I’m very tired, but I’m also very happy. This is my home, and I’m proud that basketball here is so strong.”
Nine gyrating pro cheerleaders tried hard to steal the show from Minter, but the big fellow held his own.
“This was fun,” he said. “I’d like to play another game right now.”
SOUTH ROWAN (56)— Dixon 24, Heggins 14, Cross 6, Chapman 5, Honeycutt 3, Parks 2, Pauley 2, Brown, Osterhus, Propst, Davis.
WEST ROWAN (66) — Minter 23, Sherrill 23, Brown 7, Hogue 4, Gaither 4, C. Cowan 3, Welborn 2, H. Cowan, Avery, Cuthbertson.
S. Rowan 27 29 — 56
W. Rowan 31 35 — 66
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