GRANITE QUARRY — At seven months pregnant, East Rowan coach Danielle Porter has a bit more to carry around these days.
After Friday, she and the East program will no longer have to shoulder the burden of its 10-year losing streak to Salisbury.
The Mustangs beat county stalwart and perennial 2A power Salisbury 51-46 at home for their sixth straight victory and broke a string of 18 straight losses to the Hornets.
“I’ve coached the seniors all four years and it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Porter said. “They stayed focused the entire game and tonight I felt like we played a complete game. I’m elated right now.”
East defeated the Hornets for the first time since the 2002-2003 season and sophomore Kelli Fisher dropped 20 points a night after pouring in 19 against North Stanly. The 6-foot-2 post player hit a pair of critical baskets and got a steal in the final two minutes to seal it.
“Kelli has really put it together,” Porter said. “I know this is the player that she can be. I’m proud she’s been able to open up the mental block and become this player.”
East jumped out to a 18-8 lead and held off a 30-point night from Brielle Blaire. East junior Karleigh Wike poured in 10 points and worked around three first-half fouls.
“This proves that we can do anything we can put our mind to,” Wike said. “It gives us a boost going into conference next week.”
East led 14-8 after one quarter and was feeling good after Fisher’s basket made it 21-13. However, Wike picked up her third foul on a block attempt and the Hornets got back in it. Blaire scored eight consecutive points to tie the game at 24.
Salisbury’s Nyasia Harris snatched the ball away from Wike and hit a quick shot before the first-half buzzer to give Salisbury a 26-24 lead.
Bryanna Caldwell hit a shot to start the second half, but the Hornets couldn’t keep it going. In the second half, Salisbury made just 8 of 32 shots from the floor. After Blaire’s 30 points, the rest of the Hornets managed just 16.
“You can have the best defense in the world, but you’ve got to score,” Salisbury coach Doug Faison said. “We shot 31 percent from the floor and around 50 percent for free throws. We can’t win shooting like that.”
Fisher hit two free throws to give the Mustangs the lead at 30-28 in the third. Wike added one from the line and Sydney Poole nailed a trey for a 34-28 lead. Poole finished with 14 points.
Blaire nailed a 3 and Lauren Thomas hit a jumper in the final seconds of the quarter to give the Mustangs the lead at 40-38 with eight minutes to go. Poole hit a running layup while being fouled to hand East (6-2) the lead for keeps at 42-40 with 6:49 left. A free throw from Wike and a layup from Jocelyn Lowe and it was 45-40.
Blaire had consecutive shots to pull the Hornets within 45-44 with 3:27 left but East held Salisbury without a field goal for the rest of the action. Salisbury (4-3) went full-court with the defense but the Mustangs kept their composure enough to get the ball down floor and eat up time.
“Comparatively speaking to how they’ve run in the past, I’m pleased with how we handled their press,” Porter said.
Harris fouled out with 1:56 to play and Fisher put East up 48-44 with 1:34 left on a deuce. She grabbed a pass thrown in the post on the ensuing possession and hit a bucket to seal it at 50-44 with 56 seconds to play. The Mustangs won despite struggling at the foul line, making 9 of 22 from the stripe.
“I’m really proud of them being able to weather the storm and the run,” Porter said. “They kept their composure.”
NOTES: East plays at Carson on Tuesday and begins NPC play Friday at West Iredell. Salisbury heads to Carson Thursday.
SALISBURY (46) — B. Blaire 30, Harmon 6, Connor 5, Harris 3, Caldwell 2, Usry, A. Blaire, Gloster.
EAST ROWAN (51) — Fisher 20, Poole 14, Wike 10, Lowe 4, Sides 3, Thomas, Ajayi, Fry.
Salisbury 8 18 12 8 — 46
E. Rowan 14 10 16 11 — 51