Prep Basketball: East Rowan boys 56, West Iredell 40
By Ryan Bisesi
STATESVILLE — East Rowan is confronting all of the NPC bullies that have targeted the previously ill-fated team the last few seasons.
The Mustangs are getting their lunch money back.
East put together a stellar first half, equaling a 18-point halftime lead, and cruised to a 56-40 win at West Iredell Friday night.
That 2-0 conference record is not a typo. The Mustangs shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half and hit 23 of 25 free throws to keep a double-digit advantage.
East (5-4, 2-0) won its fourth straight after starting the year 0-3. Last season’s one-win performance couldn’t be seem further behind.
“East Rowan is not the East Rowan of the past,” West Iredell coach B.J. Johnson said. “They dished everything back that they’ve taken over the last two years. They took it to us tonight.”
Jared Hough scored a team-best 16 points while Jordan Shepherd pitched in 13 despite being heavily guarded all night.
“That’s the best half we’ve played together,” East coach Trey Ledbetter said. “We took them out of their game and played together. I’m kind of at a loss for words.”
East jumped out to a 10-4 lead that went to 14-4 after Johnson was hit with a technical foul for arguing with a referee. It was 16-9 after one quarter and 20-9 after Hough and Hakeem Gittens scored baskets to begin the second.
Hough had 14 points at West last season and got another big night after a pre-game pep talk.
“Before the game, coach pumped us up,” Hough said. “We were ready to kill somebody.”
The closest West (4-3, 1-1) ever got was two baskets later at 20-13. Shepherd and Tyler L’ Hommedieu added baskets to push the lead back to double digits where it would stay.
“Shepherd’s a fantastic shooter,” Johnson said. “He accepted the fact that he couldn’t score tonight so he accepted the fact that he would be an orchestrator.”
Josh Gobble’s 3-point play with two minutes left in the half made it 36-16. East led 38-20 at the break.
“We’re not used to playing with 18-point halftime leads,” Ledbetter said. “It kind of took us about five minutes in the third quarter to figure out that we control our own destiny in this game.”
East only netted six points in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth, but ate up clock and maintained a sizable lead. The Mustangs looked like a team that had been there before, keeping its foot on the pedal and hitting 12 of 14 free throws in the second half.
“We’re really starting to mesh as a team finally,” Ledbetter said. “They’re really starting to know where they are and where each other is on the court.”
West got a trey from C. J. Gibbs in the final minute of the third quarter to make it 44-32 with eight minutes to go. East only allowed three field goals in the final quarter and L’ Hommedieu pushed the lead to 50-35 with 3:41 to play.
C. J. Gibbs was West’s leading scorer with 13 points with Jalen Gray adding 11. West only shot a pair of free throws in the first half compared to East’s 11.
“If you play defense the way we’re playing defense, you should have a chance in every game,” Ledbetter said.
NOTES: Weston Rogers, coming off a big game against Carson, was poked in the eye late in the first half and didn’t return…East will host West Rowan Monday in game that will grant sole possession of first place in the NPC.
EAST ROWAN (56) — Hough 16, Shepherd 13, L’ Hommedieu 10, Gobble 7, Gittens 6, Holmes 2, Honeycutt, Rogers.
WEST IREDELL (40) — Gibbs 13, Gray 11, Summers 4, Robinson 4, Gray 3, Phifer 2, Davidson.
E. Rowan 16 22 6 12 — 56
W. Iredell 9 11 12 8 — 40