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2012-13 Prep Basketball: East Rowan girls preview

By Ronnie Gallagher
rgallagher@salisburypost.com
GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan’s girls made the playoffs as the fourth seed last year but it was far from good enough in the eyes of coach Danielle Porter.
“I felt it was an underachieving year,” she said of the 8-16 finish.
It was the Mustangs’ second straight eight-win year, but much of the problem was learning a new motion offense and becoming fluid with it.
“It takes a while to build,” Porter said. “By the middle of the year, we started to adjust.”
East stood 1-11 and then ripped off four straight wins. The Mustangs finished the season 7-5 and it has carried over.
“This year, they have picked it right up,” Porter said. “It’s working in our favor.”
One of the biggest problems was opponents pressing East’s guards before they could get the ball past midcourt. The Mustangs are much better ballhandlers and when they get it upcourt, watch out. The Twin Towers, junior Karleigh Wike and sophomore Kelli Fisher, are waiting.
The 6-foot-4 Wike, who averaged 13.7 points last year, has re-invented her body due to long stretches in the weight room. She played on a showcase team this summer and is much better. That’s scary for anyone who saw her 30-point, 20-rebound game against North Rowan last year.
“She has increased her vertical five inches,” Porter reported. “Her moves in the post have improved and she’s more aggressive. She has developed a fake-and-drive and her jumper is pretty solid. And she’s an excellent foul shooter.”
Fisher stands 6-2 and she averaged 10.1 points. She had one stretch where she scored 20, 20 and 22 points.
“Kelli has become a lot more consistent around the basket,” said Porter. “She’s squaring up.”
It will be up to senior guards Sydney Poole and Steffi Sides, along with junior Lauren Thomas, to get the ball upcourt.
Poole is a three-year starter. She does a little of everything for Porter and averaged 6.2 points last season. That should increase.
“She’s a lot more comfortable in her role,” Porter said. “She came in great shape.”
Porter thinks Poole’s shooting may force opponents to forget about packing in a zone against Wike and Fisher.
“I would think they wouldn’t be able to match up on our guards,” Porter said. “Our man offense has improved.”
Sides should improve on her 3-point average.
“She’s got a good drive and she needs to push the ball,” Porter said. “She’s a go-getter, a fighter.
“Lauren has played with injuries. She is real key to helping the guards and the post create chemistry. She’s an adept passer and shooter. She’s very court-savvy.”
Porter calls Caroline Fry, “our zone killer. She’s a great leader and captain. She’s also our team diplomat.”
Porter said senior Lindsay Gobble was Most Improved last year.
“And she has come in even more improved,” Porter said.
The fourth guard is 5-8 freshman Jocelyn Lowe.
“She’s slick,” Porter said. “I don’t know how long it will take to adjust to the varsity level, but when she does, we’ll have a dangerous point guard.”
Casey Gullett, a 5-11 senior, can play four different positions.
“Her speed and agility give us a different look in the post,” Porter said. “She’s very defensive-minded.”
Other Mustangs to count on are Simone Allen, a 5-1 point guard who moved in from Mount Pleasant, S.C., and 5-8 sophomore forward Amani Ajayi.
“Simone is tenacious and a hustler,” Porter said. “She gives us speed. Amani has really good instincts. We’re testing her in the post. She uses her body well.”
A confident bunch of veterans and talented newcomers could send East to new heights.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised how they stepped right into the offense,” Porter said. “We have a group of girls who took the leadership of this team.”
When asked who were the top teams in the North Piedmont Conference, Porter smiled.
“Being the eternal optimist, I’m hoping us,” she said. “Every team in the conference and county will be competitive, but I hope we make some strides.” 

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