Throwback Basketball: A.L. Brown 62, West Rowan 58

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 28, 2012

By Mike London
CHINA GROVE — Scooter Sherrill’s Throwback Alumni Tournament is no longer the West Rowan Invitational.
West lost for the first time in the event on Saturday, falling 62-58 to A.L. Brown. West didn’t have Jamel Carpenter, who keyed its 2010 championship, or Donte Minter, who led the Falcons to the title in 2011, but the guys in light blue did have Sherrill and Terris Sifford, so it still meant something.
Entering the event for the first time, Brown’s nine-man roster was beefed up by North Stanly grad Johnny Watkins (Radford) and Catawba grad Ahmad Murphy.
Watkins turned in an unselfish floor game while Murphy had 13 of his 18 points during a fierce second half.
“Not all the teams have enough guys,” Murphy explained. “I live in Concord and I’m close friends with Avery Patterson, so I’m playing on the Kannapolis team.”
Murphy is putting his Catawba degree to work as a systems analyst for Shat-R-Shield in Salisbury.
“Basketball was a tool to get my education,” Murphy said. “I knew I’d be using my mind longer than my body.”
Murphy used his body well against West, however.
“Ahmad made some huge shots,” A.L. Brown coach Shelwyn Klutz said. “We don’t win without him.”
Patterson, who tossed in numerous 3s for St. John’s as part of a well-traveled college career, led the Wonders. He scored 23 points — 15 after halftime — and made the clinching free throw with 9.2 seconds left.
One reason the Wonders won was Klutz. If they’d been just a pickup team without a leader, they would’ve gotten blown out in the first half because Sherrill, a McDonald’s All-American 12 years ago, was dynamic and dazzling.
But Sherrill’s act was one Klutz had seen before —he was 0-7 coaching the Wonders against Sherrill-led West teams in high school. Klutz settled his troops down and they started making the other Falcons shoot.
“Scooter is still quick and he still knocks down his shots,”a smiling Klutz said. “But we finally won against him. We just had to wait for some guys to graduate and we had to recruit a little bit.”
Sherrill scored 23 points to lead the Falcons, while the 6-foot-5 Sifford who is built like an NFL linebacker but plays pro hoops, contributed 13 points and 15 boards.
“Sifford didn’t look like that in high school,” Klutz said. “Thank goodness he didn’t. That’s a grown man.”
When Paul Cuthbertson, the 1995 Rowan County Player of the Year, dropped in an over-the-shoulder layup as he was fouled, West led by 13 at 25-12, but the Wonders got to halftime down by a manageable 34-26.
Brown finally got even on a 3-ball by Murphy with 10:54 remaining, and then pushed out to a seven-point lead.
“We were more patient in the second half,” Klutz said. “We had some big guys (Brandon Franklin, Desmond Gray and Josh Reeves) playing hard inside, and we started doing a much better job of competing with Sifford on the glass. It was a very tough game. There will be some bruises.”
With West in serious trouble, Jerry Sherrill, who turns 47 years young next week, drilled a wing 3-pointer.
“I’m the oldest guy here,” he said. “But I still like playing the game, and I can still help the guys out some.”
A well-defended 3-pointer by Josh Avery with 50 seconds to play kept the Falcons in the hunt, and a Marcus White floater with 20 seconds left cut Brown’s lead to 60-58.
Brown’s Jeremy Jones then missed at the foul line and Sifford rebounded and was fouled, but Sifford couldn’t connect on the free throws.
“I just got off a plane from Spain last night and was exhausted,” Sifford said. “Then I got worn out more from all the banging and beating inside today. That’s why it was so hard to make free throws.”
Franklin’s free throw with 13 seconds left gave Brown a 61-58 lead. After a West turnover, Patterson hit a free throw to wrap it up.
“Going to Catawba, all I ever heard about was the great West Rowan, so it was good to win,” Murphy said. “I know West didn’t have all their guys, but they still put a strong team out there.”