GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan girls basketball coach Danielle Porter was looking for improvement Tuesday night.
But all the X’s and O’s in the NPC alphabet couldn’t have helped the Mustangs against visiting North Iredell.
“I feel like this was basically the same game we played against them before,” Porter said after East was home-schooled 57-39. “We just don’t have the fire and the ability to come back against really good teams.”
The loss left East (12-9, 4-6) buried in fourth place in the conference standings, four-and-a-half games behind the frontrunners. But against the Lady Raiders — defending regular-season and conference tourney champions — it was in over its head.
“We were confident, but not confident enough,” junior Lauren Thomas reasoned. “After a while you try not to pay attention to the scoreboard. When we started making mistake after mistake, that’s what killed us.”
North (12-6, 8-1), part of a three-horse derby atop the league standings, placed three scorers in double figures and shot well throughout the game. Junior Stacy Lunsford sank a couple of 3-pointers in the first quarter as the guests surged to a 17-10 lead.
“I liked the way we came out and shot the ball,” said NI coach Bradley Gabriel. “East Rowan’s a solid team and I told our girls, ‘If you want anything to mean anything after this, you’ve got to take this one.’ And they responded.”
They did, but not before East pulled within 17-12 when Amani Ajayi scored on a breakaway early in the second period. The guests answered with a tone-setting 12-2 run and went up 29-14 on Brooke Redmond’s bank shot with 3:34 remaining in the half.
“Transition-wise, they were beating us left and right,” ER’s Karleigh Wike said after contributing 12 points and 20 rebounds. “We honestly thought we could win this game, but they were scoring and we weren’t.”
Thomas traded a late 3-pointer with North’s Brittani Cartner as the Raiders stretched their lead to 38-19 at halftime. Cartner, a senior guard who scored 18 points, hit another 3-ball late in the third quarter to launch an 8-0 NI scoring spree that pushed the margin to 55-27.
“Stacy, Britt and our guards forced (East) out of their zone,” Gabriel said afterward. “By speeding the game up, we forced them to switch to a man. And that opened things up for Brooke.”
Redmond finished with a game-high 19 points despite sitting out about half of the fourth quarter. Against North’s second string, East scored nine consecutive points, including six by senior reserve Lindsay Gobble.
When it was over Wike provided an honest assessment. “We weren’t talking on defense and we weren’t bodying up,” she said. “And that team, you can tell they’ve been in the weight room. For us this wasn’t an improvement at all. If anything, it was a step back.”
NOTES: Thomas finished with 11 points. … East Rowan visits rival South Rowan on Friday and closes its regular season at home against Statesville on Monday.
NORTH IREDELL (57) — B.Redmond 19, Cartner 18, Lunsford 11, Fox 5, Johnson 2, Moore 2.
EAST ROWAN (39) — Wike 12, Thomas 11, Gobble 6, Fisher 4, Lowe 4, Ajayi 2, Sides, Fry, Poole, Gullett.
N. Iredell 17 21 15 4 — 57
E. Rowan 10 9 8 12 — 39