Prep Basketball: East Rowan boys 46, West Iredell 44
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY ó You can stop referring to Chris McKenzie as Kenan’s kid brother.
The East Rowan sophomore with the purebred pedigree began carving his own niche Tuesday night, when he knocked down a pair of late 3-pointers ó the last with four seconds to play ó in the Mustangs’ 46-44 NPC victory over visiting West Iredell.
“You saw Kenan shoot. I don’t know if I’ll ever be that good,” 6-foot-3 Chris McKenzie said after East (2-2, 1-2) gained its first conference win. “Jokingly, my friends like to bring that up. But when it comes to basketball, at least, I don’t feel like I’m playing in his shadow.”
He’s not anymore.
McKenzie helped East win a game that was more gritty than pretty. West Iredell (3-2, 1-2) held a 44-40 lead after Marquis Stevenson drove for a layup with 3:38 remaining.
“And it seemed like it was stuck right there forever,” said Greg McKenzie, Chris’ father and East’s head coach. “It was just back-and-forth and turnovers, and we didn’t really run a play. We just played offense.”
It went like that until Chris McKenzie drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:41 to go.
“We were running a weave, and I was going to my left,” he said. “I feel more confident in my shot going that way, so I pulled up and let it go.”
It cut the Warriors’ lead to one and gave East something to get jazzed about.
Following a series of timeouts, turnovers and missed West Iredell free throws, it came down to McKenzie with just seconds to play. This time teammate Daniel Plummer dribbled near the lane, backing his way toward the basket.
“Then, all of sudden, Chris’ man came over to double-cover me,” Plummer said.
That left McKenzie open deep in the left corner. He took a shoulder-high pass from Plummer, teed up a 25-foot shot and fired it through the net for the game’s final points.
His reaction ó he smiled like a kid at Disneyland while backpedaling to the other half of the court ó was just as entertaining.
“I probably made the goofiest face in the history of mankind,” he said. “It was my Jon Scheyer look. But I don’t care. It counted.”
West Iredell had one chance to tie the score, but it bogeyed the final hole when Donovan Gray was called for five-second violation while trying to inbound the ball under East’s basket.
“We went man in the front court and had two people back,” said Plummer, who scored all nine of his points in the second half. “They didn’t have enough people to come get it.”
And they didn’t have Chris McKenzie.
“My dad always said he was a bad shooter when he was in school,” he said. “But he always hustled. What he taught me was to work on the same thing, day in and day out, until you get it right.”
Last night it paid off.
WEST IREDELL (44) ó Stevenson 12, Smyre 7, Rucker 6, K.Gray 6, Folrod 5, Clyburn 4, D.Gray 4.EAST ROWAN (46) ó Plummer 9, Grohman 9, McKenzie 8, Weber 7, Mancil 7, Ajayi 2, Slater 2, Moore 2, Honeycutt, Allen.
West Iredell 14 16 7 7 ó 44
East Rowan 8 13 14 11 ó 46