NPC Girls Championship: Statesville 55, East Rowan 45
By Bill Kiser
STATESVILLE ó East Rowan got past one of its big hurdles this season in the semifinals of the North Piedmont Conference tournament.
For 31/2 quarters, it looked like the Mustangs may get past another one.
Statesville, however, had other plans, hitting its free throws down the stretch for a 55-45 win on Friday night for its second straight tournament title.
Olivia Rankin had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Ashley Collins also had 17 points for the third-seeded Mustangs (18-8), who have now lost six consecutive games to the top-seeded Greyhounds (23-3).
“This is the best we’ve played them,” East Rowan head coach Karen Garmon said. “My kids gave me everything they had. They did everything perfect, and they followed the game plan to the exact Xs and Os. But Statesville hit their free throws at the end ó that was the difference.”
Clemson-bound Keyrra Gillespie had 21 points and seven assists, and Janitsha Williams also scored 21 points for the Greyhounds, and it was their play down the stretch that provided Statesville with the lift it needed to win its third straight game.
Statesville’s poor shooting ó 27.6 percent from the field ó cost it a chance to build on a strong first-quarter lead. The Hounds led 16-9 after the opening eight minutes, but hit just 2-of-13 from the field in the second quarter as the Mustangs went up 24-20 at the half.
A big part of that came with a defensive switch ó East went to a box-and-one on Williams, who had scored 14 of Statesville’s 16 first-quarter points, including four straight 3-pointers.
After the switch, Williams did not score a point for the next 21/2 quarters, and the Mustangs led by as many as five points early in the third quarter and were up 33-30 on a Rankin layup with 3:43 left.
But East had its own problems ó Rankin picked up her second and third fouls late in the third quarter, and came out of the game. That allowed the Greyhounds to pull even at 33-33 on Raven Brown’s 3-pointer with 3:17 left, and go ahead 36-33 on a Gillespie free throw 34 seconds later and a layup with three seconds remaining.
The Mustangs pulled within two points twice in the fourth quarter, the last at 42-40 on two Collins free throws with 3:38 remaining.
But that’s when Williams re-emerged. Her 3-point play with 2:24 left pushed Statesville’s lead back to five points, and a follow-up layup 21 seconds later gave the Greyhounds a 47-40 lead.
Statesville then sealed the win by hitting 8 of 12 from the free throw line over the final two minutes.
“Free throws can win ballgames and lose ballgames,” Garmon said. “We stayed right with them, but we had to start fouling them and try to get the ball back. But they did what they needed to do by hitting those free throws.”
east rowan (45) ó Collins 17, Rankin 17, Poole 6, Vanderford 5, Drew, Holshouser, Honeycutt, File.
statesville (55) ó Williams 21, Gillespie 21, C. Bradley 6, Brown 5, Sherrill 2, B. Bradley, Bailey.
E. Rowan 9 15 9 12 ó 45
Statesville 16 4 16 19 ó 55
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