GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan put on its big-girl pants and gave visiting South Rowan a physical education Friday night.
Led by towering forwards Kelli Fisher and Karleigh Wike, the Mustangs played with a renewed vigor and assertiveness in a 65-44 NPC victory.
“We had a lot of things we needed to tweak after (losing to) North Iredell,” coach Danielle Porter said as East (10-6, 2-3) curbed its two-game losing streak. “It started with our intensity. There was lots of conditioning in practice this week.”
It ended with Fisher, Wike and the rest of the Mustangs dominating the second half and handing South (3-12, 0-5) to its ninth straight defeat.
“We were physical with them in the first half,” losing coach Jarrod Smith said. “We pushed Karleigh and Kelli off the block and attacked them before they got the basketball. In the second half we let them push us back and stopped boxing out. Any time you stop boxing out, chances are they’re gonna get the rebound and chances are they’re gonna score.”
South did plenty of pushing in the second quarter, when it trimmed an eight-point deficit to 29-28 at the half.
“We were right there,” said Avery Locklear, the shooting guard in South’s all-sophomore starting lineup. “We were playing well and hustling. But in the third quarter we stopped doing all that. We should have kept pushing.”
East’s big girls had something to do with that. When 6-foot-2 sophomore Fisher opened the second half with a reach-over layup, the rout was already on. “We came out with a new fire,” she said after contributing a season-high 22 points and six rebounds. “We knew we shouldn’t lose this game.”
Fisher wound up scoring 12 points in the third period as East soared to a 49-34 lead. Twice she backed in toward the basket, hit layups and completed three-point plays.
“I’m probably harder on her than I’ve been on other big players I’ve coached,” Porter said. “Because I know what she’s capable of. She did a beautiful job tonight of using her body to create space for herself. She’s so strong. We’ve been pleading with her for a long time to use her body to make space. I think it’s finally getting through.”
Fisher shot 8-for-14 from the floor taking high-percentage shots from close range. “They tell me all the time to use my body,” she said. “Tonight I did and the guards did a great job getting the ball inside.”
And while 6-4 teammate Wike did not shoot impressively, she still recorded 15 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“I know we can’t match height with them, but we can match effort,” Smith said. “And for half a game we did. We’re still growing. But what is this, 15 games into the season? Being young is no longer an excuse. We’ve got to find a way to win some games.”
NOTE: Locklear finished with 20 points.
SOUTH ROWAN (44) — Locklear 20, Bost 10, Chipman 8, Hubbard 5, Martin 1, K.Stamey, Honeycutt, McClendon, Davis, C.Stamey.
EAST ROWAN (65) — Fisher 22, Wike 15, Fry 9, Lowe 8, Thomas 6, Sides 5, Gobble, Poole, Gullett, Ajayi.
S. Rowan 10 18 6 10 — 44
E. Rowan 17 12 20 16 — 65