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By Mike London
Salisbury Post
East Rowan senior Kenan McKenzie averages 14.9 points a game, so it’s a 50-50 proposition that he’ll score the 15 he needs for 1,000 tonight when the ninth-ranked Mustangs travel to West Iredell’s new gym.
It definitely won’t be easy. West Iredell’s trademark is defense, and the Warriors limited McKenzie to 10 points when they lost 64-40 in Granite Quarry.
If McKenzie does reach the magical milestone, ceremonies will likely be postponed until East’s home game with Carson next week.
Traditionally, when players reach 1,000, they haul a commemorative ball into the bleachers and hand it off to family members. McKenzie’s walk could be short. His father, Greg, is East’s head coach, and he’ll be ready with a handshake or a hug.
Probably both.
High school head coaches generally are of the opinion that coaching their own children is both the most rewarding and the hardest thing they’ve ever done.
Hopefully, the McKenzies will enjoy their moment. Nothing quite like this has happened in the county since 1999 when James Greene coached South’s girls and was on the bench when his daughter, Latoya Ramsey, knocked down her 1,000th point.
A four-year varsity player, McKenzie has often been in the shadow of fellow senior Justin Vanderford, East’s all-time scoring leader, but he’s scored in double figures 49 times and has been instrumental in the best run in East history. This season’s 13-1 mark brings the Mustangs’ four-season record to 78-21.
The biggest compliment you can give Kenan is he’s made his father a lot smarter coach. The bearded bomber has buried 43 3-pointers this season, and he’s no one-trick pony. He can pass and handle and knows when to gamble in East’s 1-3-1 trapping defense.
McKenzie has scored as many as 41 points in a game, but last Friday’s 17-point night at Statesville was one of his finest all-round efforts. He was 5-for-6 on 3s and handed out 11 assists.
“Kenan passed up quite a few shots,” Greg McKenzie said. “He was so patient, waiting, waiting, giving his teammates time to get open.”
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TEAMMATES: McKenzie will become East’s sixth 1,000-point scorer, and he and Vanderford will give the Class of 2008 a pair of 1,000-point producers.
East also had two in its Class of 1991 ó Brian Perry (1,173) and Thad Sprinkle (1,016).
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ROAD WARRIORS: East is on pace to be the highest-scoring team in school history. A widely held theory is East can’t miss at home and is human on the road, but the numbers don’t support that idea.
Fact: East averages 73.6 points on its home floor, 76.1 in other gyms.
While East made the turn in its 10-team league at 9-0, it still has to visit the top half of the league ó Northwest Cabarrus, West Rowan, Lake Norman and Mooresville ó so it will be interesting to see if the production continues.
Senior Shawn Eagle, who drilled his first five shots at Statesville, is optimistic.
“A lot of people think we just light it up in our gym, but I believe we play better on the road, especially a place like Statesville where they don’t really have a student cheering section,” Eagle said. “I know we still have to go to some places like Lake Norman and Mooresville where the students are gonna be crazy.”
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FILLING IN: Injured starter Trey Holmes (broken hand) is projecting a return on Jan. 21. Former sixth man Daniel Plummer will continue to get the bulk of the minutes replacing him.
“Daniel’s come in and really solidified that fifth starting spot for us,” Greg McKenzie said.
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RECOVERING: East’s backups got blasted for a while by Statesville’s frontline guys after McKenzie emptied his bench late in the third quarter, but they settled down and started putting points on the board.
Jordan Moore did lots of damage inside. Joe Ponds did a credible job handling Statesville’s pressure.
“Those guys haven’t played that much, so it’s hard to ask them to go out there for a whole quarter and be great,” McKenzie said. “But they did OK. Everybody respects what Joe Ponds does. Jordan is probably our best rebounder.”
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TONIGHT’S MATCHUPS: In the other NPC matchups, Lake Norman is at Statesville, Carson is at Mooresville, West Rowan is at North Iredell and South Rowan is at Northwest Cabarrus.
West Rowan’s boys keep finding ways to survive. They’ve won three NPC games by two points and can pull out another one in Olin if they can put a lid on Tyrece Scott, one of the NPC’s best.
West’s girls have to beat some of the teams that beat them the first time around if they’re going to have a winning season. They lost to North Iredell and its dynamic duo of Santana Morrison and Mandeesa Singletery by five points in Mount Ulla.
If you’ve got to travel to Olin for an NPC quadruple-header, Friday is the best night. But don’t miss the Tomlin Mills Road exit. If you do, you’re headed for Ohio.
South Rowan’s girls have a dangerous game in Northwest’s “Pit.” The Trojans own several big home wins, including one over West Rowan.
n North Rowan’s boys benefited when Ledford knocked off Salisbury on Wednesday. The idle Cavaliers woke up Thursday morning alone in first place in the CCC but dropped back into a tie with the Hornets at 3-1 with last night’s loss to Central Davidson.
The CCC race could be wild, with five teams entertaining legitimate title hopes. Salisbury will try to get back on track against one of them ó Lexington ó at home.
n A.L. Brown’s boys go to Concord. If there’s going to be a race in the SPC, the Wonders have to knock off the Spiders, but shooter Jonathan Efird is hobbling and Concord, ranked No. 1 in the state in 3A, is coming off a 105-point outing.
n In a few weeks, another father-son team ó Davie’s Mike and Drew Absher ó will be celebrating a 1,000-point career. Drew, a junior, enters tonight’s game at West Forsyth with 858.
While NPC teams enjoy their 10th league game tonight, Davie will be playing its first CPC contest.

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