Prep Basketball: East Rowan boys 53, Salisbury 39
By Nick Bowton
Salisbury couldn’t beat East Rowan the last two seasons, when Shawn Eagle played at South Rowan.
Now Eagle’s at East, and he’s one more weapon the Mustangs can use against the Hornets.
Eagle led East to a 53-39 victory Wednesday, when he scored a game- and season-high 22 points as the Mustangs defeated Salisbury for the fifth straight time.
“It is a big confidence boost,” said Eagle, who made three of his five 3-pointers in the first quarter. “Spenser (Davis) and Justin (Vanderford) and everybody knew I can shoot. They did a great job of kicking it out. They drove, and when everybody collapsed, just kicked it out to the open shooter. It happened to be me a couple of times.
“Once I started getting rolling, it just felt good every time I shot it.”
That good feeling didn’t make its way to Salisbury’s bench.
The Hornets had their worst offensive performance of the season by far. They came in averaging 72.4 points per game but didn’t score more than 10 in any quarter last night.
“We were not the aggressor,” said Salisbury coach Jason Causby, who’s yet to defeat East in his three seasons with the Hornets. “And we are a good enough team that we should be aggressive every step on the floor. We were sitting back and waiting.
“That’s not what we need to be doing.”
Not with a starting lineup that featured four players who were 6-foot-4 or taller.
Instead of getting the ball to the post, Salisbury (4-2) played from the free-throw line and out. And that played right into East’s hands. The Mustangs (6-1) continuously forced turnovers and were able to win despite producing a season-low point total.
East led 29-20 at halftime but scored only five points in the third quarter. The Mustangs seemed content to hold the ball near midcourt and force Salisbury to step out and defend them.
“We just felt like as long as we had the ball in our hands, we’re in good shape,” East coach Greg McKenzie said.
The Hornets, meanwhile, seemed content to let East kill the clock and nurse its slim advantage. East led 34-29 heading into the fourth quarter.
When the Mustangs started the final quarter playing too frantically, McKenzie called a timeout just 17 seconds in. East responded by turning the ball over, committing a foul and having a shot blocked in the next minute.
That stretch gave Salisbury a chance to snare momentum, but after Salisbury’s Nick White blocked Kenan McKenzie’s shot, Davis stole it back at the other end. The ball ended up with Eagle in the right corner, and his final 3-pointer put the Mustangs ahead 37-29 despite a sloppy start to the quarter.
“At halftime, even the second quarter, we talked about, ‘Who’s got the hot hand?’ ” Coach McKenzie said. ” ‘Shawn.’ ‘Then hit him.’ That was good to see him come out like that. We’ve just got to get a couple of ’em on the same night to do that.”
How about a couple in the same quarter?
After Eagle’s 3, Kurt Misenheimer made one for a double-digit lead. Misenheimer made another 3 as East opened the final quarter on a 13-3 run, and the Mustangs had the game in control with three minutes remaining.
“For whatever reason, when we play these guys we just do not get out and push the ball like we do against other people,” Causby said. “It’s one of those mysteries. We just don’t play well against these guys.”
EAST ROWAN (53) — Eagle 22, McKenzie 11, Vanderford 8, Misenheimer 8, Davis 2, Holmes 2, Wilhelm.
SALISBURY (39) — Campbell 13, Allen 8, Phifer 8, Rose 6, Abel 4, White, Allison, Gibbs, Ali.
E. Rowan 14 15 5 19 — 53
Salisbury 10 10 9 10 — 39
Contact Nick Bowton at 704-797-4256 or email@example.com.