DENTON — It has already been a long season for coach Danielle Porter and the East Rowan girls basketball team.
The winless Mustangs were uncharacteristically careless with the ball Friday night and dropped their second game, 58-45 at South Davidson.
“There was a three-minute spurt where we let one mistake lead to another and then another,” Porter said after East turned the ball over 27 times against SD’s stifling press. “We got rattled and started throwing the ball away. That’s not how you win.”
East failed to capitalize on a distinct height advantage against South, a 1A squad that has captured the past two Yadkin Valley Conference tournament titles.
“Yeah, we were definitely outsized,” winning coach Fonda Jackson said with a postgame smile. “We were afraid to get it in the middle until we discovered it was open.”
East’s troubles didn’t begin until the second quarter. The Mustangs played well early when they scored 11 unanswered points and used baskets by Kelli Fisher and Karleigh Wike to grab a 17-10 lead.
“Then we started playing passive,” said Wike, the 6-foot-4 junior post player. “And we lost our heads. They took advantage of that.”
Did they ever. The Wildcats strung together an 11-2 run to close the first half and went ahead for keeps, 21-19. when Larsen Sigmon sank a long set shot from the right side with 2:24 on the clock. Meanwhile East went seven-and-a-half minutes decisive without a field goal, a drought snapped when Lauren Thomas drained a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. By then the Mustangs were fighting an uphill battle.
East had nine turnovers in the second period and 12 in the third. Predictably, they were outpointed 29-12 during that stretch. “We made it easy for them,” Porter said. “We gave away chances. Plus our big girls were quiet around the basket. If we’re gonna make that much effort to get them the ball, they’re gonna have to finish.”
Also missing was East’s signature self-assurance. “We just didn’t play with a lot of confidence,” Thomas said after netting a team-best 16 points. “That’s what we need to get better at. We need leaders. We need to all get on the same page.”
East wasn’t able to make any headway in the fourth quarter, but it showed signs of life when freshman Jocelyn Lowe and Thomas buried 3-balls and Fisher banked home a couple of layups. Wike snagged an offensive rebound and hit a putback and senior Sydney Poole closed the scoring with a 12-footer from the left side.
“Our press was big in the second and third quarters,” said Jackson. “It helped us get some easy baskets off turnovers.”
None of it was acceptable to Porter.
“We were playing soft, letting them be the aggressor,” she said. “And they just took it and ran with it. When other teams can smell fear like that, they run with it.”
EAST ROWAN (45) — Thomas 16, Wike 10, Fisher 9, Poole 5, Lowe 3, Gullett 2, Sides, Ajayi.
SOUTH DAVIDSON(58) — L.Sigmon 18, M.Sigmon 11, Wall 9, Beeson 7, Fee 6, H.Sigmon 4, Miller 3.
E. Rowan 13 6 6 20 — 45
S. Davidson 10 11 18 19 — 58