Prep Basketball: East Rowan boys 54, North Davidson 50
By Mike London69811
GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan junior Justin Vanderford, who could become his school’s all-time scoring leader, was held scoreless for the first time since the middle of his freshman year.
Vanderford’s 0-for-8 night could have spelled disaster, but East managed to grind out an intense 54-50 win over CPC foe North Davidson.
“Justin’s a great player, and that’s really the first time I can remember him struggling in three years,” East coach Greg McKenzie said. “But it says a lot about us that we beat a good team even with our best player having an off-night.”
East (17-2, 7-1) overcame an eight-point deficit in the second half because Shawn Eagle (18 points) was impossible to guard. Kenan McKenzie and Kurt Misenheimer delivered key shots, and Trey Holmes was spectacular off the bench.
The game had a lot in common with East’s teeth-pulling 55-52 struggle past the third-place Black Knights (15-6, 5-4) in Welcome on Jan. 2.
“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you’re playing North Davidson,’ but that’s one dang good team,” Eagle said. “They’re always tough, and we all know Howard Hurt so well that it’s become a rivalry game.”
Greg McKenzie’s gameplan was not to let Hurt, a 6-foot-4 senior with 25-foot range, beat his team. East opened in a triangle-and-two, giving special attention to Hurt and guard Chris Pagentine. In the second half, the Mustangs went almost exclusively with a box-and-one — with Holmes on Hurt — and limited Hurt to two second-half shots.
“Howard didn’t get many shots, and you have to credit East for that,” said North Davidson coach Fredrick Hurt, Howard’s brother. “We’ve got lots of stuff to run against junk defenses, but it seemed like we always had one guy running the play wrong.”
Things started extremely well for East, which got quick 3s from Misenheimer and McKenzie and built a 16-9 first-quarter lead. But the second quarter was a five-point nightmare for the Mustangs, who shot 2-for-13 from the floor and got beat on the glass.
When Hurt stuck a long
3-pointer to end the half, the Black Knights led 24-21.
High tide for the visitors was a 33-25 lead three minutes into the third quarter.
But the lead disappeared quickly on a flurry by McKenzie, who hit two shots, then found Holmes twice for layups. Misenheimer hit a big 3-pointer to tie the game 36-36 heading to the fourth quarter.
East led 42-39 with 3:40 remaining when the Black Knights took the lead with a four-point possession. Justin Burgess made the first of two free throws. When he missed his second shot, Korey Carlton outmuscled Holmes for the rebound and turned it into a three-point play.
But momentum stayed with the Knights very briefly. East scored the next eight points on McKenzie’s 3-pointer, Eagle’s drive, a Spenser Davis free throw and a steal and layup by McKenzie after Hurt had secured a defensive board with 1:10 remaining. East led 50-43. The tension should have been over, but East struggled mightily at the line.
After Pagentine sandwiched two missed free throws by Eagle with two tough runners, it was 50-47, and the Mustangs were talking things over during a timeout.
“I’d missed two free throws, so the last thing I told Misenheimer when we broke was, ‘Don’t give the ball to me, whatever you do,’ Eagle said with a grin. “So what does Kurt do? He gives it right back to me.”
North Davidson eagerly fouled Eagle with 22 seconds left. His first free throw was long, but it kicked off the back of the iron, went straight up and fell through. After another timeout, he swished his second shot for a 52-47 lead.
“I got lucky on the free throw,” Eagle said, “but it seemed like they’d gotten the bounces all night.”
Hurt hit a deep 3-pointer with 10 seconds left, but Holmes made two clutch free throws to push East’s lead back to four points.
“It was a hard-earned win, really a great win,” Greg McKenzie said. “If people look at North Davidson’s record, they’ll understand how good they are, how tough they are to play and how tough they are to beat.”
north davidson (50) — Pagentine 15, Hurt 12, Burgess 7, Taylor 7, Gryder 3, Goff 3, Carlton 3, Reich, Shell.
east rowan (54) — Eagle 18, McKenzie 12, Holmes 10, Misenheimer 10, Davis 4, Vanderford, Ingold, Wilhelm.
N. Davidson 9 15 12 14 — 50
E. Rowan 16 5 15 18 — 54
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon @salisburypost.com.