Prep Basketball: East Rowan boys 55, North Davidson 52
By Mike London
WELCOME — East Rowan’s boys were like the ace pitcher who manages to win even without his best stuff in Tuesday’s 55-52 escape from North Davidson.
The Mustangs (11-1, 2-0) weren’t sharp, the Black Knights were fired up, and East was on the wrong end of a late call that coach Greg McKenzie said was the worst whistle-blowing decision he’s seen in 20 years.
Big games by Justin Vanderford, who scored 21 points, and Shawn Eagle, who had eight of his 17 in the fourth quarter, saved the Mustangs in a battle of Christmas tournament champions. Spenser Davis’ seven assists also helped East survive in a gym where few CPC teams will win.
“We didn’t clean up on the boards when we had our chances, and East got the loose balls,” North Davidson coach Fredrick Hurt said. “But we held them to 55 points. That gives you a chance to win; we just didn’t do it.”
Chris Pagentine led the Black Knights (11-4, 1-3) with 19 points. Senior Howard Hurt, former Erwin Middle School teammate of many Mustangs, banged four 3-pointers.
Dismal 3-for-13 shooting in the second quarter with zero made 3s earned East a 25-22 halftime deficit.
“North Davidson played great defense, this is a hard place to get used to playing, and we just came out dead,” Vanderford explained.
The Black Knights, controlling tempo and playing smart, took a 42-37 lead into the final eight minutes.
“We weren’t doing the little things like taking charges that we usually do,” East’s Kurt Misenheimer said.
But East came out for the fourth quarter with increased intensity. Vanderford, who scored often in the paint, curled in a layup. Eagle, tough to handle at the high post, hit two free throws, then drove for the three-point play that gave the Mustangs a 44-42 lead, their first edge since the second quarter.
Hurt answered with a 3-pointer that put the Knights ahead 45-44 with 4:57 left to play, but East was able to silence Hurt the rest of the way, employing Davis to hound him in a diamond-and-one defense.
Vanderford drilled a 3-pointer to give East the lead back, then Misenheimer, who has recovered from the virus that limited him during the Christmas tournament, rose to stick a massive 3-pointer for a 50-45 lead.
“The fourth quarter, we were all talking and pushing,” Vanderford said. “McKenzie got pretty mad at us, and we sparked.”
Both teams had a handful of fouls with a minute left. That led to North Davidson fouling intentionally, trying to reach seven team fouls so East would have to shoot one-and-ones.
“The foul situation for both teams was hilarious,” McKenzie said. “I think the officials wanted to go watch Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.”
With 19 seconds left, Eagle made a free throw for a 55-52 lead. Five seconds later, Hurt reinjured a back still ginger from a bad fall he took in Davidson’s Christmas tournament.
North Davidson missed a 3-pointer to tie, and all heck broke loose with seven seconds left when Eagle and Justin Burgess scrapped for the rebound. When Burgess went to the floor, Eagle was called for an intentional foul.
“They both had the ball, and Shawn ripped it away from him,” Vanderford said. “Shoulda been a jump ball.”
Burgess missed both free throws he was awarded. Then Pagentine missed on a 3-pointer that would have tied it, and Davis came down with the rebound that ended the game.
“How you can make a call like that with seven seconds left?” a disbelieving McKenzie asked. “We’re fortunate the kid missed the free throws.”
E. rowan (55) — Vanderford 21, Eagle 17, McKenzie 8, Misenheimer 8, Davis 1, Holmes, Wilhelm, Wilson.
north davidson (52) — Pagentine 19, Hurt 14, Burgess 7, Taylor 6, Carlton 4, Niver 2, Wright.
E. Rowan 16 6 15 18 — 55
N. Davidson 11 14 17 10 — 52
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or email@example.com.