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Moir Classic: West Rowan girls 53, East Rowan 48, OT

By David Shaw

Salisbury Post

As unsightly as Wednesday’s opening-round victory was, it couldn’t have happened at a better time for the West Rowan girls basketball team.

The Falcons shot a pedestrian 32 percent from the field, made only one basket in overtime and produced more turnovers than a 24-hour bakery — yet somehow prevailed.

“It’s a win and we’d had two losses in a row,” coach Bob Blake exhaled after West edged East Rowan 53-48. “I don’t know if we could have handled three in a row. I told the girls at halftime, ‘Win by one or win by 10, but just win.'”

That mantra proved significant after West (5-4) squandered a 10-point second-quarter lead and had to rally from a 42-37 deficit midway through the fourth period. It took a pair of clutch steals by Peyton Sawyer, six overtime free throws and a decisive rebound/putback combo move by Wendi Adams to lift the Falcons into today’s 3 p.m. semifinal against Salisbury.

“It definitely wasn’t our best,” said Adams, one of three West scorers in double figures with 11 points. “We were kinda sloppy. The key was not looking at the score and just playing hard, right to the end.”

The loss sent East (3-7), the No. 6 seed in this year’s Moir Classic, into today’s noon second-round game against winless Carson. Losing coach Karen Garmon believed her team “got flustered,” in overtime and added: “We’re having a tough time finishing these tight ones right now. But the more games we play like this, the better.”

This marked ER’s third loss to the Falcons this season — and second in overtime. “We’re just glad to be through with them,” said Blake.

It took some doing this time. West had the early edge, mounting a 23-13 lead on a free throw by junior Katie Cox with 3:27 left in the first half. East answered by scoring the last five points of the second quarter — the last four on Rebecca Cooper layups.

“We just had to keep pushing ourselves,” said West’s Rachel Graham. “After losing two straight, we had to prove to everybody that we can win.”

Ditto for East. The Mustangs climbed out of a 34-26 hole with an 8-0 run late in the third quarter, pulling even on a jailbreak layup by Ashley Collins. East surged ahead in the fourth, grabbing a five-point lead when Lauren Cress swished a 14-foot set shot with 4:04 remaining in regulation.

“It just shows that you can never quit,” ER’s Haley Miller said after shooting 7-for-11 from the floor and netting a game-best 16 points. “You’ve got to finish strong and play hard until the buzzer goes off.”

The next time it went off, Graham was launching a desperation shot as the clock expired. Cress, who had nine points and nine rebounds, gave East a 48-47 lead in OT when she drained a 3-ball from the left side. It lasted only until Adams — a 5-foot-10 space-eater in the middle — confiscated a missed free throw and hit a putback, giving the Falcons a one-point lead they never relinquished. Down the stretch, there were key free throws by Sawyer and Graham — and a sigh of relief from Blake.

“That’s been our M.O.,” he said. “We haven’t made free throws in the fourth quarter and in clutch situations. Tonight, Peyton stepped up and made some. Rhonda (Turner) made some big ones. And Rachel came through when we needed her. They were all big because we weren’t getting real good shots, but we were getting fouled and going to the line. We had to make them.”

The loss was particularly difficult for Miller, the East junior who fouled out with less than a minute to play.

“It’s one of the most heartbreaking games I’ve ever played,” she said. “Sometimes I think it’s better to lose by a lot than to lose another close game. I can’t give a straight-up answer to why we lost. I just know we did — and it’s a tough one.”

E. Rowan (48) — Miller 16, Collins 12, Cress 9, Cooper 4, K. Stout 4, Vanderford 3, Barrier, Hill.

W. Rowan (53) — Graham 13, Taylor 12, Adams 11, Cox 7, Turner 4, Sawyer 4, Kraft 2, Izze, Foster, M. Stout, Simmons.

E. Rowan 10 8 16 11 3 — 48

W. Rowan 17 6 12 10 8 — 53

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Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisburypost.com.

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