KANNAPOLIS — East Rowan’s girls emerged from their locker room, one by one, with each Mustang wearing an identical grin.
The Mustangs won their third game in three nights on Thursday when they easily handled Northwest Cabarrus 67-47.
“We’re definitely ready for a night off, but I feel so good right now,” senior Caroline Fry said. “We’re excited and we’re pumped. We just want to keep pushing.”
East was weary, it was on the road in “The Pit”, and it was missing size and rebounding strength with Kelli Fisher sidelined by illness. It didn’t seem to matter. The Mustangs (3-2) got eight first-quarter points from Karleigh Wike to grab a lead and got eight in the second quarter from Amani Ajayi to take control 33-21 at halftime.
“Missing Kelli, Amani and Casey (Gullett) had big shoes to fill, but they both played great,” Wike said. “They were out there talking and playing really good defense.”
East’s guard corps has gotten a nice boost from youngster Jocelyn Lowe’s quickness, and the Mustangs were able to limit turnovers and get the ball in the paint often.
“You tell Lowe something just once and it sticks with her, and that’s a real asset,” East coach Danielle Porter said. “There have been times when we’ve struggled against quick guards like Northwest has, but Lowe has really helped us.”
Steffi Sides, Lauren Thomas, Sydney Poole passed the ball well, and East got 3-pointers in the second half from Thomas and Fry.
Wike had another dominating game, falling two blocks short of what would’ve been her second triple-double in two nights. She led East with 19 points. Ajayi finished with a career-best 13. Gullett had five second-half field goals for a career-best 10.
Leading 37-25 early in the second half, East settled the outcome with a brisk 9-0 run. Wike scored inside, Lowe got loose for a fastbreak bucket, and Thomas scored five quick points with a layup and a 3-pointer from the left side.
Jasmine Davis scored 11 points for the Trojans (1-2) and Madison Swift and Jennifer Farrar scored eight apiece, but the Trojans never could get any consistent offense going — not with four Mustangs playing man-to-man and Wike sagging back into the paint in a one-person zone. Northwest tried to get Wike in foul trouble, but she avoided it. She didn’t get her first foul until late in the second quarter and didn’t get her second personal until late in the third quarter.
“We’ve been working very hard on defense,” Porter said. “With Karleigh anchoring things back there, we had some really good defensive possessions tonight and were able to lock them down.”
East started 1-11 last season, didn’t manage its second and third wins until the Christmas tournament and finished 8-16. It’s mostly the same cast this time, but with the important additions of Lowe and Ajayi.
“This feels a lot different than 1-11,” Wike said. “It’s a feeling that we like.”
EAST ROWAN (67) — Wike 19, Ajayi 13, Gullett 10, Thomas 8, Poole 8, Fry 5, Sides 2, Lowe 2, Gobble.
NW CABARRUS(47) — Davis 11, Farrar 8, Swift 8, Bost 6, Grant 5, McNeil 4, Lambert 3, Smith 2, Hott, Bennett, Dixon, Wallace.
E. Rowan 15 18 21 13 — 67
NW Cabarrus 9 11 12 14 — 47