Moir Christmas Classic: The Notebook
From staff reports
The Moir Classic notebook …
There are four seats just off the court by press row at Catawba during this three-day extravaganza known as the Sam Moir Christmas Classic.
They were the best seats in the house for the biggest sporting event of the year in Rowan County. And they belong to Jim Duncan.
He won them in a silent auction at Catawba back in August. Along with the seats, he also received VIP parking.
“We call them the ‘Jack Nicholson seats,’ ” laughed Catawba athletic director Dennis Davidson.
Duncan is enjoying himself.
“It’s been wonderful,” he said of being so close to the action. “You feel like you’re playing the game yourself.”
Among Duncan’s invitees to sit courtside Wednesday was C.C. Freeman, who may have seen more Moirs than anyone in the history of the event.
CROWDED HOUSE: The opening day of the Moir had Davidson pleased. Crowds picked up for the 1:30 boys game between West and Salisbury, but dwindled in the two girls games following that. The South-East boys game at 7:30 drew large numbers.
Davidson got what he wanted on Wednesday’s semifinal night when the top seeds — Davie boys and Carson girls — played.
Carson’s fan base showed up in force for the Cougars’ rout of South, as well as curious onlookers who wanted to see if this 12-0 Carson team is for real. It is.
Davie and West always draw well for their boys and it was played in front of a packed house in Davie’s pulsating 70-66 win.
When the girls’ semifinal began, Davidson was worried if there were enough seats in 2,600-seat Goodman Gym.
“This isn’t a doubleheader,” he said. “This is four different schools. It’ll be packed.”
WINNING’S FUN: Carson’s girls didn’t get caught looking ahead to a much-anticipated matchup with Salisbury in the title game.
The Cougars took care of business in the semifinal round with a comfortable win against South Rowan.
“We want it bad,” Carson’s Kelly Dulkoski said. “It’s all about winning right now. We’re going to need to shoot better like we did in the second half [against South].”
KESHUNOMICS: In Wednesday’s 70-66 loss to Davie, fourth-seeded West Rowan’s Keshun Sherrill had 20 points at halftime, with seven coming at the foul line.
“The main thing we’d talked about was keeping Keshun off the foul line, and then it seemed like he lived there in the first half,” Davie coach Mike Absher said.
Davie contained him better in the second half. Sherrill shot just free throws after halftime — the only two West shot — and he was 2-for-12 from the field in the second half, including three huge misses in the lane down the stretch.
“Shannon Dillard did a great job of contesting those shots, and he gets up high enough that he’s hard to shoot over,” Absher said. “Keshun wasn’t missing by much, but we defended him just well enough.”
Sherrill finished with 28 points. He has 1,547 for his career. He has surpassed the prep total of Salisbury great Bobby Jackson, who went on to a fine NBA career, by a single point.
The only players in county history who have scored more than the uncommitted West senior are his brother K.J. (1,596), North’s James Henderson (1,654), East’s Justin Vanderford (1,684), Salisbury’s Bobby Phillips (1,849) and West’s Donte Minter (2,087) and Scooter Sherrill (2,469).
“Keshun seems to be a great kid, and he’s just really tough to defend,” Absher said. “The thing some people don’t realize about him is he rebounds like he’s a 6-10 guy. He had an offensive rebound, flying in diagonally on a free throw in their game against Salisbury, that was probably the play of that game.”
Sherrill easily had the play of the game on Wednesday, a mind-boggling reverse on a flying, hanging baseline drive that had to be seen to be believed.
“My first two practice layups tonight were that same shot,” Sherrill said. “Then it came into effect in the game.”
CHEMISTRY: West coach Mike Gurley is going the extra mile to get his entire roster involved early and often, and it’s paying dividends in terms of production as well as camaraderie.
Gurley keeps the scorer’s table revolving like a ballpark turnstile, with situational offensive specialists Seth Martin and Jack Gallagher and defensive specialists Najee Tucker, Zeke Blackwood and Daisean Reddick sliding in and out.
Martin had the biggest impact Wednesday by draining three 3s.
POLITICALLY CORRECT: Gurley has been around long enough that he knows how to express dismay with the officiating without actually verbally berating the crew.
Gurley’s pained postgame facial expressions displayed a certain amount of wonderment with Davie’s second-half foul total of five — two of which were on purpose.
“Apparently Davie did just a wonderful job of moving their feet and they played some fantastic defense without ever using their hands,” Gurley deadpanned.
PHILOSOPHIES: While Absher said that the Moir tournament is a “mini-season” that Davie really wants to win, Gurley never stresses the Moir.
His emphasis, as it is every year, is in winning the NPC and making a run in the state playoffs.
“As a coach I feel pretty good about my basketball team because if we play as hard as we did tonight, we can do well in the NPC,” Gurley said. “This game helped us. We saw where we really need to get better — and that’s rebounding and defense.”
WHO’S PLAYING? Davie seeks its first Moir boys title since 2004 tonight at 8 p.m., while North Rowan goes after its first — believe it or not — since 2000.
Absher said that Nate Jones (25.9 ppg), suspended for Wednesday’s semifinal, will dress tonight. Absher said the availability of Caleb Martin (ankle) will be determined by X-rays today.
FATHER-DAUGHTER: Davie girls coach Denny Key, who is the elder statesman of Moir coaches at 64, watched Sydney Wooten score 20 points in a consolation loss to East Rowan on Wednesday.
It brought back memories. Wooten’s father, Sterling, played for Key in 1979 on a Forbush team that set the school record for wins.
BRING IT, BABY:Very rarely in high school girls basketball does a county get to enjoy two very good centers.
Rowan County has that and they collided in the semifinals of the Moir tournament Wednesday.
Sticking out in Salisbury’s 65-51 win, was the battle in the paint between highly-touted prospects Brielle Blaire of Salisbury and the lengthy swat-specialist Shay Steele of West Rowan.
In many of the Hornets games, Blaire doesn’t encounter a force even moderately capable of contesting her inside presence, but Steele presents that problem.
“It is fun playing against Brielle because it challenges me and I have to work very hard for position,” Steele said. “I try to take it at her and get fouls on her the best I can. I want to show that I can play her and that it isn’t ALL about Salisbury High School in Rowan County basketball.”
Blaire notes the challenge that Steele presents.
“It is different for me because I don’t play against many girls my size and don’t have to adjust my shot like I do against her,” Blaire said. “When they try to bring Shay at me to try for fouls, I just listen to Coach (Chris McNeil) and try not to block everything and just get my hands up.”
The best thing about both players is that Moir fans will see them many more times in years to come as Steele is a junior while Blaire is just a sophomore and will be a force for two more seasons.
COACH ON THE FLOOR: As if Pierre Givens’ 19 first-half points and five 3’s weren’t enough of a show in North Rowan’s win over East Wednesday, he also helped out coach Andrew Mitchell with defensive schemes.
“The last adjustment we made came from Pierre,” Mitchell said. “We had a 13-point lead and three big players on the court and thought we could give them one shot and hold them. They started backdoor-cutting us.”
“Pierre ran over and said we need to go with five guards. So sure enough we went five guards and played well.”
20-SOMETHING: It’s rare to have a 20-rebound game but the Moir has produced two of them.
South’s Kayla Corriher grabbed that number in a win over North and Blaire did the same against West.
ON THE AIR TONIGHT: Hall of Famer Howard Platt will call both championship games tonight at 6 and 7:30 on WSTP 1490 AM.
Analyst Bob Parker is out of town so he will be replaced for the Moir by Wilson Cherry.
Ronnie Gallagher, Mike London, Ryan Bisesi and Jordan Honeycutt contributed to the notebook.