East girls win CPC opener
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY — Ashley Collins didn’t need a calendar to know what time of year it is.
Collins, a sophomore guard, quickly realized that East Rowan’s CPC opener was a special occasion, and she proved it in a 66-37 victory against R.J. Reynolds on Thursday night.
“Everything we’ve done before leads up to this,” Collins said. “This is what really matters.”
Collins played that way, contributing 18 points and eight assists as East reached the Christmas break with a 3-6 overall record. Two other Mustangs cracked double figures — junior Haley Miller, who netted a career-best 16 points, and Lauren Cress, who scored 12 despite sitting out most of the fourth quarter.
“It’s conference time,” East coach Karen Garmon said. “That was our focus tonight. It’s do-or-die. It’s win-time.”
It didn’t look that way after RJR’s Charity Britton (game-high 25 points) hit a 10-foot set shot from the left side to pull the guests within 20-19 early in the second quarter. That’s when Garmon called an audible, ordering the Mustangs to abandon their man-to-man defense in favor of a 3-2 zone.
“They were so athletic,” she said. “We couldn’t stay with them man-to-man. Making that change, I think that’s what triggered us.”
Added Miller: “You don’t have to have talent to play defense. Anybody can do it. What you need is a lot of heart.”
Miller’s three-point play stopped the bleeding and helped East rally to a 33-23 halftime advantage. She worked particularly well in unison with Collins, who wowed the crowd with a couple of thread-the-needle passes inside.
“Collins’ passes are always great,” Miller said. “You don’t always have to have signs. We just read each other.”
East began pulling away early in the third quarter, when layups by Rebecca Cooper and Collins followed by a pair of Cress free throws put the hosts ahead by 16. The lead ballooned to 59-31 when Miller made a steal and scored on a fastbreak layup with 5:07 to play.
“Haley’s the girl we have to ride all the time about not shooting,” Garmon said. “She wants to be the unselfish, defensive player who gives up the ball or looks for somebody else. She has a ton of ability offensively. What you saw tonight — that’s what she’s capable of doing every night.”
NOTES: East played without sophomore point guard Katelynne Poole, who suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain in practice Tuesday. Her status for next week’s Christmas tournament in uncertain.
“It’s her first time,” Garmon said. “If you’ve never rolled an ankle before, it’s pretty nasty that first time.”
R.J. Reynolds (37) — Britton 25, Smart 6, Cuthberton 4, Vinlan 2.
EAST ROWAN (66) — Collins 18, Miller 16, Cress 12, Hill 6, Cooper 4, K.Stout 3, Vanderford 3, S.Stout 2, Smith 2, Barrier, Everhardt.
R.J.R 12 11 8 6 — 37
E. Rowan 16 17 14 19 — 66
Contact David Shaw at email@example.com.