STATESVILLE — East Rowan has always had a big frontcourt anchored by 6-foot-4 Karleigh Wike and 6-3 Kelli Fisher.
Friday night in a 72-57 win at West Iredell, it played even bigger.
“That’s because we’ve had some real serious discussions the past couple days,” coach Danielle Porter said after East (7-3, 2-0) won for the seventh time in its past eight games. “After our game against Carson (a 69-33 loss on Tuesday), we talked about establishing position on the floor, calling for the ball and being more aggressive. If that’s gonna be our M/O then they’ve got to fill that role.”
Apparently the Mustangs didn’t assert themselves convincingly against Carson. “Not at all,” senior teammate Sydney Poole said. “We were just not into that game mentally.”
That all changed in a hurry against West (1-6, 1-1). Poole’s 3-pointer from the right side and Fisher’s set shot from inside the lane helped the Mustangs grab an early 9-0 lead. Then Wike caught fire — hitting a pretty eight-footer from the elbow, dribble-driving for a power layup, then completing a pair of three-point plays that pushed East to a 21-5 first-quarter lead.
“Everybody was doing everything right,” Wike said after totaling 18 points, seven rebounds and eight blocked shots. “We moved the ball inside and out, and the guards read it perfectly.”
Fisher’s putback helped East mount a 42-14 lead at the half. Then in the third period the sophomore converted three short-range baskets as the lead ballooned to 61-28.
“Against Carson, they just guarded us in a way we hadn’t seen,” Fisher explained. “Tonight we came out hungry.”
Fisher’s night included 14 points, 13 rebounds and two rejections. First-year West coach Chante Miller hard her hands full trying to solve ER’s frontcourt riddle.
“My girls started out doing what I wanted them to do — try to get open inside and look for open shots,” she said. “But after a while their height might have overwhelmed us a little bit.”
East was still somewhat reckless with the ball (29 turnovers) — especially as its reserves racked up substantial playing time in the second half. The Warriors, led by sophomore guard Elizabeth Webb, outscored East 29-11 in the final quarter. Porter said it was all by design.
“I’m a strong believer in karma,” she said. “Once we had it sealed, I don’t feel like we should be pushing it. Basketball is fickle — and if you have a down year you don’t want someone running it up.”
Most importantly, East picked up a conference victory on the road, locked up the No. 3 seed in next week’s Christmas tournament and appears to have its big-girl problem resolved.
E. ROWAN (72) — Wike 18, Fisher 14, Poole 11, Gullett 8, Fry 7, Ajayi 5, Thomas 4, Lowe 3, Sides 2, Gobble,
W. IREDELL (57) — Webb 26, Summers 11, Allison 8, Boggs 7, Feimster 5.
E. Rowan 21 21 19 11 — 72
W. Iredell 5 9 14 29 — 57