Prep Basketball: South Rowan boys 58, East Rowan 57: Sherrill wins it

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 4, 2012

By Mike London
LANDIS — South Rowan boys coach John Davis called one of the best timeouts of his career with 4.9 seconds left in overtime in Wednesday’s unlikely 58-57 victory against NPC frontrunner East Rowan.
South was tied with the Mustangs, and South freshman Robby Sherrill had just bricked his first free throw when Davis calmly took a timeout before Sherrill’s second attempt.
“I was glad he took the timeout because my nerves were all over the place,” Sherrill said. “Basically, Coach told me to believe in myself because the team believed in me.”
South practices free throws as much as anyone, but while Davis believed, he still couldn’t bear to look, as Sherrill walked back to the line.
“Didn’t have to look,” Davis said with a grin. “The crowd reaction was going to tell me if Robby made it — or not.”
South fans roared as Sherrill’s shot swished. They roared louder when East’s Jordan Shepherd’s desperate runner rolled off the iron on the other end, and they charged the floor a half-second after Bonner Buchanan grabbed the clinching rebound.
It was a stunning result, even though this is the county’s most underrated rivalry. South has won 51 and East has taken 47 of the schools’ 98 all-time meetings in boys hoops.
In addition to Sherrill, Qua Neal was a hero for South. He scored 11 of his 19 as the Raiders (3-12, 2-3) staged a furious, fourth-quarter rally.
Shepherd scored 18 for East. Hakeem Gittens got 10 of his 17 points on his five stickbacks. Doom may have been inevitable for the Mustangs once Gittens, the game’s leading rebounder, fouled out with 1:35 to go in the OT period.
East (9-6, 4-1) came out flat, and Houston Allen provided early energy for South. The Mustangs managed just three points in the first quarter, but they seized a 17-16 halftime lead on Shepherd’s driving buzzer beater.
“After that flat first quarter, we responded well,” East coach Trey Ledbetter said.
A huge, three-point play by Jared Hough appeared to give East separation and control, and the Mustangs took a 38-30 lead to the final eight minutes.
“We’ve got a bunch of young kids trying to find their way, and I told them this was going to be tough and physical like a Big East game,” Davis said. “Houston got us started off. Then in the fourth quarter, Qua kept us in it.”
South got a huge 3-pointer from reserve Dylan Goodman and caught up at 40-all on a fearless drive by Sherrill with 5:15 left. Neal battled Gittens tooth and nail for the rest of regulation. Gittens’ soaring three-point play — he stuck back a miss as he was fouled — put the Mustangs ahead 49-47 with 24 seconds left, but Neal’s driving bucket with 2.9 seconds to go forced OT.
“I knew I had to take it to them,” Neal said. “We were executing — driving and kicking, playing good defense.”
Twice Shepherd put East ahead in the OT with clutch 3s, but South got two free throws from Josh Medlin for a 57-all tie with 30 seconds left.
When Shepherd missed with 12 seconds left, Sherrill didn’t hesitate. He attacked, took it all the way to the rim.
“Just instinct,” he said. “If I made the shot, I made it, but I knew I had to get fouled.”
His second free throw proved decisive.
“We got outplayed,” Ledbetter said. “For 36 minutes, South got after us. They’re not a 2-12 team — they’re a good team — and tonight they were the aggressor from the start.”
EAST ROWAN (57) — Shepherd 18, Gittens 17, Hough 9, Gobble 6, Means 5, Holmes 2, Rogers, Honeycutt, L’Hommedieu.
SOUTH ROWAN (58) — Neal 19, Allen 13, Spry 10, Medlin 9, Goodman 3, Sherrill 3, Lambert 1, Tyler, Washington, Garlin, Buchananan, Parker.
East 3 14 21 11 8 — 57
South 8 8 14 19 9 — 58