Moir Christmas Classic third place: East Rowan boys 59, East Rowan 43
By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY — With each win, East Rowan sheds a little more of its reputation of being the county punching bag.
In another fundamentally- sound effort Thursday, East took third place in the Moir Christmas Classic with a 59-43 win against West Rowan. East senior Hakeem Gittens scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for a double-double and a spot on the all-tournament team. East had its seven-game win streak snapped by North Rowan Wednesday, but won for the eighth time in nine games.
The Mustangs have learned through their renaissance in the last few weeks they can play with anybody.
And beat them, as they’ve done West twice in the last two weeks.
“We’re just so resilient this year,” East coach Trey Ledbetter said. “We know we can compete with anybody. Third place is a big honor. Instead of baby steps, we’re taking big boy steps now.”
Facing a tie game late in the first half, the Mustangs scored the final six points of the half and never trailed after that. East (9-5) led by as many as 17 in the second half, making 10 of 19 shots.
“We don’t have a main go-to guy,” said Gittens, who scored a career-high. “We just play as a unit. As long as we win, I don’t care.”
Jordan Shepherd netted 17 points and Donte Means had his highest output of the year with 11. East committed just one foul and allowed no West 3s on six attempts in the first half. West managed six points in the first quarter and eight in the second.
“I told them defensively that’s the best game we played all year,” Ledbetter said. “We challenged every shot.”
After West’s Seth Martin drained a 3 to make it 23-20, East scored nine straight with baskets from Gittens coming at the bookends.
“He’s a good basketball player,” West coach Mike Gurley said. “When they spread you like that, they get you a little off-kilter.”
Gittens hit consecutive baskets late in the third quarter, including one while drawing a foul to put East up 36-22. The Mustangs led 40-27 at the end of the third and West (6-6) never got closer than 11 in the fourth.
“We came into the game just as confident as they were,” Gittens said.
Keshun Sherrill, who scored 28 against Davie on Wednesday, poured in 18. Other than Sherrill, West had problems finding the hoop, shooting 16 for 47 (34 percent) and was 4 of 15 from behind the arc.
“We missed a bunch of bunnies that would have given us confidence,” Gurley said.
The score stood tied at 6 after eight minutes and West knotted it again at 14 on Sherrill’s jumper with 4:01 left in the half. Who else but Gittens gave East the lead for keeps with two straight buckets. Shepherd had a steal and a layup in the last minute of the half for a 20-14 lead at the break.
“I felt like we were the aggressor tonight from beginning to end,” Ledbetter said.
WEST ROWAN (43) — Sherrill 18, Parks 10, Martin 6, J. Morgan 4, Warren 4, T. Morgan 2, Long, Tucker, Blackwood, Reddick, Archie, Gallagher, Hassard, Cuthbertson.
EAST ROWAN (59) — Gittens 19, Shepherd 17, Means 11, Hough 4, Gobble 4, Holmes 4, Honeycutt, Rogers, Edwards, L’Hommedieu, Nelson.
W. Rowan 6 8 13 16 — 43
E. Rowan 6 14 20 19 — 59