East girls fall
CONCORD — East Rowan's girls basketball season ended with with a whisper rather than a roar Monday night.
The 14th-seeded Mustangs went down quietly in a 62-47 loss at J.M. Robinson in the first round of the 3A state playoffs.
“This isn't the game we wanted to play,” coach Danielle Porter said after East finished 15-11 overall, a six-game improvement over last year's 8-16 mark. “But honestly, one-through-five they are a tough squad. I didn't expect them to be that good, but they're a high calibre team.”
Third-seeded Robinson (23-5) played sneaker-to-sneaker defense, rattled East into 36 turnovers and won for the 16th time in its last 17 games.
“Our girls caught fire in the second quarter,” winning coach Lin Smithson said after the Bulldogs earned a second-round match against Carson on Wednesday. “They especially got fired up on defense. That's what does it for us.”
East gave the hosts a good game for a quarter-and-a-half. The Mustangs, who led 2-0 and 7-6 in the opening period, trailed by only 19-17 when junior Karleigh Wike hit a bank shot with five minutes remaining in the half.
But midway through the quarter East point guard Jocelyn Lowe was injured. JMR built an 11-point lead with less than a minute on the clock.
“When you lose your point guard, it gets tough,” Porter said. “She's a freshman in a high-pressure situation. Those kind of things can happen.”
Things got out of hand in the third quarter, when East's had 14 turnovers.
“We had trouble with the press break and let one mistake lead to another,” said junior Lauren Thomas. “We should have been smarter with the ball. We should have used more fakes.”
Instead, the Mustangs dug themselves a deeper hole. Robinson closed the third quarter on a 10-0 run and led 48-26 with eight minutes to play. The hosts led by as much as 57-30 before Smithson called off her bulldogs. “We did a lot of things right,” she said. “But mostly, we kept their guards from feeding the post.”
Wike, East's 6-foot-4 center, nonetheless finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds and scored her last basket of the season on a floater down the lane with three minutes to go.
It marked the final game for East forward Sydney Poole and four other seniors. In a touching gesture, Porter let Steffi Sides, Caroline Fry, Casey Gullett, Lindsay Gobble and Poole play the final 1:42 together.
“It was great to play with them one last time,” Poole said with a warm smile.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for East was that Porter — four days past her due date — made it through the season without giving birth to her first child.
“I never thought I would,” she giggled. “(Assistant coach) Amanda (Paffrath) was ready to step in at any time.”
EAST ROWAN (47) —Wike 15, Fisher 8, Thomas 5, Fry 5, Poole 4, Gullett 4, Ajayi 4, Gobble 2, Lowe, Sides.
J.M. ROBINSON (62) — Fulford 15, Cook 12, Mahoney 10, Zeiler 8, Scott 7, Bickford 3, Vaughters 2, Neale 2, Dalton 2, Bearden 1.East Rowan 11 11 4 21 — 47
J.M. Robinson 15 17 16 14 — 62