GRANITE QUARRY — No matter how much ketchup you pour on it, a midseason conference victory on the road is most appetizing.
That’s how South Rowan boys basketball coach Bryan Withers viewed Friday’s 47-42 NPC win at East Rowan.
“We struggle on the road — and we struggled again tonight,” Withers said after the Raiders (9-7, 3-2) tumbled down the stairs and somehow landed on their feet. “We could not shoot. We couldn’t push it, couldn’t play our game. It was an ugly, physical game, but we found a way to win it.”
And East, which hasn’t won a home game in weeks, found another way to lose one.
“This game,” coach Trey Ledbetter said after ER (4-11, 1-4) lost its fifth straight. “This game looked like nobody wanted to win. Not until the last minute. It was terrible shooting.”
It was old-fashioned street ball, more gritty than pretty, and the Raiders emerged with their fourth win in their last five outings.
“We just needed this,” junior forward T’Vadis Wesley said. “It’s a start. This one tonight will help us get the next one.”
This one wasn’t decided until the final 3:03 when South launched a 9-3 finishing kick. The score was tied four times in the fourth quarter — including 36-36 after South’s Shawn Spry flashed a snappy dribble-drive across the lane and hit a layup with 5:10 remaining.
“We didn’t give up when we could have,” he said after topping all scorers with 13 points. “Coach has us in this attack mentality. Show no mercy. Keep pushing all the time.”
South went ahead moments later when the 6-foot-2 Wesley turned an alley-oop pass from guard Eric Tyler into a two-handed slam dunk. Withers said it was the third consecutive game the two had perfected the same play.
“Those two have chemistry when it comes to that play,” he said. “With the type of athlete T’Vadis is, you just throw it up and he goes and gets it.”
Tyler agreed. “That man goes and gets it.. All I have to do is get it around the rim.”
Ledbetter said South’s timing was perfect. “They ran it all game against us in the (Christmas) tournament,” he said. “But kudos to Bryan for running it in that situation. It changed momentum and bam, they had us.”
East regained the lead just seconds later when Donte Means scored on a layup, got fouled by Tyler and sank a free throw — putting the Mustangs ahead 39-38 with 3:21 to play.
“It was a wild fourth quarter,” Spry said. “The alley-oop got everyone hyped up, but a minute later we had to fight back again.”
The Raiders connected on successive shots to move ahead 42-39. First, Qwan Rhyne banked home a basket from inside the lane. Then following a scramble under the net, South’s Christian Holbrook confiscated a loose ball and bounced a pass to Wesley, who positioned himself for an unchallenged layup with 2:24 to play.
“(Wesley) is learning the game every day,” Withers said. “He’s starting to get to the right places. He knows how to get open, but we’re trying to teach him to take one more step.”
There was more drama down the stretch. East’s Conor Honeycutt knocked down a clutch 3-pointer from the left side, inching the Mustangs within 44-42 with 1:09 remaining. But South cemented the outcome when Rhyne hit the second of two free throws with less than a minute to go. East’s final charge up the hill was repelled when Josh Gobble’s 3-ball from the top of the key crashed off the front of the rim with 9.8 seconds on the clock.
SOUTH ROWAN (47) — Spry 13, Rhyne 10, Wesley 10, Tyler 5, Hill 4, Carter 4,, Medlin 1, Corriher, Goldston, Holbrook, Oullette, Miller.
EAST ROWAN (42) — Honeycutt 11, Gobble 10, Sa.Wyrick 7, Means 5, Se.Wyrick 5, L’Hommedieu 2, Edwards 2, Bell, Corpening.
S. Rowan 9 13 8 17 — 47
E. Rowan 11 12 8 11 — 42