GRANITE QUARRY — It’s down to playoff math for East Rowan’s boys basketball team — and things aren’t exactly adding up.
The sixth-place Mustangs are officially a longshot to make the state playoffs after suffering a 49-41 NPC loss to visiting North Iredell on Tuesday.
“We added it all up and I showed them everything we had to do,” coach Trey Ledbetter said after East (5-15, 2-8) lost for the ninth time in 10 games. “I showed them all the scenarios and we were excited.”
So was North (8-11, 4-5), which kept its composure down the stretch and ascended into fourth place in the league standings.
“This was huge for us,” said winning coach Brian Cantrell. “We knew this was going to be a war, but that’s our style. If it’s not low-scoring and chaotic, we’re not comfortable.”
And like every war, this one wasn’t pretty. There were turnovers galore, missed opportunites and poor shooting displays by both teams. At times the game was so bad it was good.
“We broke down tonight,” East sophomore Sam Wyrick said after a season-best 18-point performance. “It’s getting frustrating. We have talent. It’s just not showing in our record.”
It was a game the Mustangs could have won. On a night when several participants and spectators wore pink to acknowledge breast cancer survivors and victims, East coughed up leads in both the first and fourth quarters.
“This was a game we needed to extend our season,” Ledbetter said. “We came out with every intention of doing that. We got great looks. We were setting great screens. I told the guys to head-hunt on screens. The ball just wouldn’t fall.”
It fell early when senior Josh Gobble knocked down a 3-pointer that gave the Mustangs an 18-12 lead late in the opening quarter. North was led by 6-foot-4 sophomore Brantly Chambers, who bumped and bruised his way for 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“He was big and he got good position inside,” Gobble said. “And when he got chances, he made his shots.”
East fell behind when Austin Hartness hit a short jump shot from the left side midway through the first half, then surged to a 28-25 halftime lead after East got sloppy with the ball.
“We turned the ball over on five straight possessions to end the first half,” Ledbetter lamented. “Now, they only scored three points off of them, but we were being too careless.”
East made only 12 field goals in the game — and its only one of the third quarter came when Donte Means sank a fastbreak floater with 2:41 left in the period. It produced his only points.
“Donte’s got to assert himself early in the game,” Ledbetter said. “He’s getting there, but right now we’re taking baby steps instead of giant steps.”
East took one step forward and two steps back in the fourth quarter. It grabbed its final lead when Wyrick drained a 3-ball from the right corner, providing a 35-33 lead with 4:58 remaining.
“That three brought them to life,” Cantrell said. “But we’d been in this thing for 30 minutes and weren’t about to give up. That’s when we kept our poise and decided to take only high-percentage shots.”
Instead the Raiders tightened their defense — limiting East to two baskets the rest of the way — and started converting little baseline layups and short bank shots. The took the lead for keeps when Chambers scored from the doorstep with 3:05 to play and ended the game with an exclaimation mark when the power forward flushed down a last-minute fastbreak jam.
“Now it gets tough,” Gobble said. “We have to beat South Rowan and Statesville just to have a chance.”
NORTH IREDELL (49) — Chambers 15, Hartness 8, Ruppe 7, Nolen 6, Mullins 4, Holland 4, Ely 2, Pruitt 2, Weibly 1.
EAST ROWAN (41) — Sa.Wyrick 18, Gobble 8, Honeycutt 5, L’hommedieu 5, Edwards 2, Means 2, Corpening 1, Se.Wyrick, Bell.
N. Iredell 15 13 5 16 — 49
E. Rowan 18 7 6 10 — 41