Prep basketball: West Rowan boys 79, Lexington 65

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 16, 2012

By Mike London
LEXINGTON — The final score of West Rowan’s 79-65 win at Lexington on Monday was astoundingly misleading.
West’s lead was 63-61 with two minutes left when West’s 5-foot-9 Keshun Sherrill whirled into the lane and into the trees to will the biggest bucket through the hoop.
“He just muscled that ball in,” marveled West coach Mike Gurley. “People can say Keshun’s not this or not that, but the reason we won today is I had my guy and Robert (Lexington coach Hairston) doesn’t have his guy.”
Gurley’s guy, Sherrill, poured in his usual 28 points, without forcing anything.
While Lexington (5-7) is playing without the gifted Qaundarious Crump (football knee injury), it still gave the Falcons all they could handle until the final two minutes.
“Can you imagine how good that team would be with Crump?” Gurley wondered. “That would mean a lot easier looks for (Keith) Horton and (C.J.) Woodberry.”
Horton was torrid in the first half, shredding West’s pet defense— a 1-2-2 zone — for five 3s and 18 points.
He singlehandedly forced West (10-7) to play man-to-man in the second half, and while the Falcons made Gurley bellow in frustration in the third quarter, they clamped down on the athletic Jackets at crunch time.
“It was a very good game for us,” Sherrill said. “This felt like playoffs, and our man-to-man defensive effort made the difference.”
Other difference-makers included Jarvis Morgan, who went 0-for-2 on dunks but still scored 17 points, and Najee Tucker, who tossed in 15.
“It’s all about confidence level for Najee,” Morgan said. “He’s starting to get it. I was wondering when he’d start playing like he can.”
Sherrill and Morgan combined for 24 points to give West a 33-31 halftime lead, but Woodberry dropped in nine in a third quarter that ended 49-all.
The teams traded dazzling buckets in a furiously fought fourth quarter until Sherrill’s daring drive provided West with a four-point lead.
“That was a shot where I had to be strong-minded,” Sherrill said. “They were reaching and fouling, but I knew I had to make it.”
Lexington wasn’t in a desperate situation, even after Sherrill’s key bucket, but it took quick shots down the stretch, and it was one-and-done. West’s Morgan, Tucker and Maurice Warren snatched every available board.
“That’s our question,” Gurley said. “Can we consistently rebound? Today, we did.”
Off that spree of Lexington misses, West cashed in layups and free throws to blow it open. West went 13-for-14 at the line in the fourth quarter.
“Our youthful inexperience really showed up those last few minutes,” Hairston said. “We just didn’t finish the way we’re capable.”
Hairston and Gurley put this annual game together two years ago to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, and players understand it’s about more than a win or a loss.
“It was a matter of pride for me to play well as a tribute to this day,” Morgan said. “I wanted to put on a good show.”
WEST ROWAN (79) — Sherrill 28, J. Morgan 17, Tucker 15, Warren 6, Reddick 5, Cuthbertson 4, T. Morgan 2, Hassard 2, Martin, Gallagher, Hodzik, Long.
LEXINGTON (65) — Horton 24, Woodberry 18, Covington 6, Lewis 6, Baldwin 5, McLean 4, Byrd 2, Holloway, Hoover, Huntley, Bradley.
W. Rowan 17 16 16 30 — 79
Lexington 11 20 18 16 — 65