Moir Christmas Classic: East Rowan boys 48, Carson 37
By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY — East Rowan is winning its way with the rest being details.
The Mustangs lasted through a seven-point first quarter and a five-point third quarter Tuesday in a 48-37 victory against Carson in the opening round of the Moir Christmas Classic.
Points were a rarity when both teams battled to a 7-5 first quarter.
Whatever the point total, East ended up with its seventh consecutive win on a bigger stage in a tournament it hasn’t won since 2006. Carson had the ball down 3 with under a minute left, but Jacob Raper’s 3-point attempt was wide and the Cougars didn’t score again.
Trey Ledbetter said there wasn’t much to it.
“We wanted to make them play catch-up the whole game,” said the East coach. “It pretty much worked.”
The Mustangs were two weeks removed from beating its county rival on its home court.
East (8-4) fought off the Cougars in the last quarter when it was a two-point game on two occasions. After taking a 7-5 lead in the first quarter, the Mustangs never trailed and sustained a measurable lead. East sank 12 of 17 free throws in the second half to pull away.
“We had five seniors on the court to play the last two minutes and they took us to where we needed to be,” Ledbetter said.
The Mustangs will take on North Rowan today at 4:30 p.m. at Goodman Gym in the semifinals.
“Our thing is not trying to score 80, 90 points a game,” East’s Hakeem Gittens said. “We’re good at 30, 40 points and keeping the other team down with our defense.”
Carson’s first-half shooting frustrated coach Brian Perry. The Cougars made 3 of 26 field goals for an 11.5 percent clip. Carson (3-9) went 7:56 without a field goal in the first half before Tre Williams banked in a 3.
“We missed some easy ones that we should have made,” Perry said.
Josh Gobble put in a shot from close range to make it 21-10 at the half. Jared Hough hit the only two field goals of the third quarter for East. Carson pulled to within 26-16 at the end of the third. Carson got consecutive baskets from D.J. Love and Dontae Gilbert to close to within 27-20. Travis Abbitt misfired on a contested layup in transition and East got a wide-open Weston Rogers to can a trey to pull the lead back to double digits. A 3-point play from Colton Laws made it 31-28 with 4:10 remaining and Tre Williams’ jumper made it a one-point game on the next possession.
Gittens finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. Gittens hit a runner while drawing Laws’ fifth foul to make it 39-33 with 1:51 left.
“Coach told us to go straight at him because we knew he had four fouls,” Gittens said. “I just went straight for it.”
“I thought the story was Gittens getting a lot of offensive stickbacks,” Perry said.
Love made two free throws and Gilbert sunk a putback to make it 39-37 with 1:08 left. Jordan Shepherd made the front end of a one and one and Carson had a chance to tie. Raper’s attempt to knot the game failed to draw iron and Shepherd was fouled with 44 ticks left.
Carson stayed in the game applying defensive pressure in the second half. The Cougars had 19 points off mistakes and forced East to turn it over 16 times.
“They started pressing and we made some ill-advised passes,” Ledbetter said. “It got closer than we wanted it to get.”
Hough led the way for East with 14 points and was 4 of 4 from the foul line in the last 30 seconds. Shepherd also hit 4 of 4 late from the charity stripe. Gittens and Hough were 5 of 8 from the field.
Laws scored 10 points to lead the Cougars.
CARSON (37) — Laws 10, Williams 8, Gilbert 7, Love 7, Abbitt 3, Raper 2, Scott, Howard.
EAST ROWAN (48) — Hough 14, Gittens 13, Shepherd 9, Rogers 5, Means 3, L’Hommedieu 2, Gobble 2, Holmes, Honeycutt.
Carson 5 5 6 21 — 37
E. Rowan 7 14 5 22 — 48