Prep Basketball Playoffs: Southwest Guilford girls 74, East Rowan 53
By Mike London
HIGH POINT ó Like boxes of chocolates, the playoff brackets offer unexpected surprises.
East Rowan’s girls ran into way more than they expected in a 74-53 loss against Southwest Guilford in a 3A first-round matchup on Tuesday.
“You look at their record and never think they’ll be as good as they were,” East senior Katelynne Poole said. “They blindsided us.”
Southwest’s Cowgirls entered the night 13-12 and exited 14-12. East finished a strong season at 18-9.
Poole scored 21 points to wrap up a great career. Ashley Collins’ equally extraordinary career ended with 11 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore center Olivia Rankin produced 15 points.
Awesome freshman guard Zena Lovette poured in 30 points for the Cowgirls, 20 in the second half.
It was decided early. Southwest Guilford hit the Mustangs with fullcourt pressure that featured length and quickness. East turned it over. Southwest made layups.
“Their press was just really good, and we got ourselves into a hole,” Poole said. “The rest of the game we were still freaked out by the start.”
East coach Karen Garmon watched five red-jerseyed deer stare into imaginary headlights. It was 11-2 after four minutes when she tried to calm a shell-shocked team.
“Southwest Guilford played great pressure defense and jumped out on us,” Garmon said. “When you don’t know a whole lot about the team you’re playing, the team that’s the most intense at the start usually can grab momentum and keep it. The plan coming in was for us to be that aggressive team, but they flipped things on us.”
In the first quarter, East turned it over nine times, shot a rushed 3-for-10 when it did get a look and was outrebounded 18-5.
“We were just intimidated for a quarter,” Garmon said. “That team is of the same caliber as Statesville and Salisbury, so we could have gotten beat very, very badly. But we were resilient. We fought back. Our girls ran till their legs just couldn’t run anymore. That’s all I could ask.”
East settled down in the second quarter. Poole started making shots, and Collins banked in a 3 as she fell to the floor. East got as close as 23-15 but trailed 37-23 at halftime.
“We kinda relaxed,” Collins said. “We started showing the confidence that we could play with them.”
East rebounded better out of its 2-3 zone than its 3-2 look and won the board battle in the third quarter. But Lovette had 10 points in a period that ended with the Cowgirls ahead by 15.
East fans waited for something to cheer about and got it when Collins produced a rare four-point play to open the final quarter. She drilled a right-wing 3-pointer as she was smacked and pounded the floor with her right fist. It was 54-43 after she made the free throw.
“I though that was the momentum change we needed to come back,” Collins said. “But it wasn’t.”
East got back within 10 ó 58-48 ó on a pair of Mackenzie Holshouser free throws with 5:17 remaining, but Lovette made enough free throws to keep the Mustangs at a safe distance.
Southwest’s tall coach Jessica Bryan smiled when asked about her team’s deceiving record and its trip Thursday to Porter Ridge.
“We’ve got the record we do mostly from being young,” she said. “There were games early we just couldn’t pull out because of inexperience, but it looks like we’re peaking at the right time. Our guards played great tonight. We executed our press, set the tempo we wanted and got a big jump on East at the start.”
Garmon wasn’t smiling. She had to say goodbye to two of the top six scorers in school history.
“It hurts that this season’s over,” she said. “But losing those two breaks my heart.”
east rowan (53) ó Poole 21, Rankin 15, Collins 11, Holshouser 4, Vanderford 2, Sabo, File, Drew.
Southwest guilford (74) ó Lovette 30, Mercer 13, Lawrence 9, Parker 7, Buchanan 6, Connor 4, Ramirez 3, Morris 2, Deese, Pone.
E. Rowan 8 15 16 14 ó 53
SW Guilford 21 16 17 20 ó 74