LANDIS — Things are looking up for East Rowan’s girls, mostly because opponents have to look up at East’s post tandem of 6-foot-4 Karleigh Wike and 6-3 Kelli Fisher.
Wikehad 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Fisher had 12 points and eight rebounds, as the Mustangs won 51-43 at South Rowan on Friday.
“East’s big girls play so well together and pass the ball to each other so well,” South coach Jarrod Smith. “You’ve got to hand it to them. They don’t try to be something they’re not. They’re not trying to run up and down the floor. They know size is their strength and they’re good at getting you into a halfcourt game.”
South (5-17, 2-9) has no one taller than 5-10, so its only potential path to victory was to force a ton of turnovers.
The Raiders couldn’t. Freshman Jocelyn Lowe and East’s other guards broke pressure routinely, and the Mustangs (13-9, 5-6) had an enormous advantage once they set up their halfcourt offense.
Three teams are looking up at East in the NPC standings, which means the Mustangs will be in the 3A state playoffs — barring miraculous occurrences in the league tournament.
East’s seniors also will experience their first wining varsity season after years of 5-18, 8-15 and 8-16.
“Last year, all teams had to do was pressure us, and it was signed and delivered,” East coach Danielle Porter said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in that area.”
Senior Sydney Poole also was instrumental in East’s win. She had the man-to-man assignment against South star Avery Locklear. Locklear finished with 19 points, but she only had five in the first half when the Raiders still had a realistic chance to win the game.
“Avery is an awesome player,” Poole said. “The objective was to face-guard her and keep her from getting the ball. Once she gets it, it’s very tough to stop her.”
Cassidy Chipman hit three 3-pointers and scored 15 points for the Raiders, but South dropped its fourth in a row.
Fisher scored seven in the first quarter and Caroline Fry hit a 3-pointer, but Wike was missing, and South was only down 23-18 at halftime.
But the amibidextrous Wike took control of the game with four buckets in the third quarter and Lauren Thomas hit a 3-pointer, as the Mustang stretched their lead to 14.
“The high-low worked well for us with Kelli and Karleigh,” Porter said. “In the first half, we didn’t have enough space between them, but once we got our spacing right, we were forcing a defender to commit to one or the other.”
When Fisher fed Wike for a layup with 5:05 left to play, East led 48-31, and Porter took starters out. South, which honored seniors Elisha Davis and Ashlyn Coley, didn’t gave up and got as close as 49-43 late on two Locklear free throws.
“Everything was clicking tonight,” Poole said. “We had two tall girls in there using their bodies and finishing.”
EAST ROWAN (51) — Wike 14, Fisher 12, Poole 6, Thomas 6, Lowe 5, Fry 5, Ajayi 2, Gullett 1, Sides, Gobble.
SOUTH ROWAN (43) — Locklear 19, Chipman 15, Bost 5, Martin 2, McClendon 2, Davis, Honeycutt, Kam. Stamey, Kac. Stamey.
E. Rowan 14 9 20 8 — 51
S. Rowan 10 8 11 14 — 43
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