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East girls fall

OLIN — Sometimes stats lie, but there also are times when they tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

They told the truth Wednesday. East Rowan’s tall tandem of Karleigh Wike and Kelli Fisher combined for one point in the second half of an NPC tournament semifinal, and when that happens, the Mustangs have no chance.

No. 4 seed East got pounded thoroughly in the second half and lost 57-40 to top-seeded North Iredell in Olin.

“We had an advantage inside and a lot of times we got the ball to where we had the advantage,” East coach Danielle Porter said. “But North Iredell’s girls are strong-bodied and strong-willed, and in the second half they got position, and we conceded it to them.”

Without injured star Brooke Redmond, North Iredell (16-6) looks un-scary for a conference champ and East is the league’s tallest team, but the 10th-ranked Raiders have a knack for doing whatever needs to be done. Brittani Cartner scored 18 points. Moriah Johnson ran the show. Recent varsity addition Morgan Blevins and Stacey Lunsford made big outside shots. Physical Lacey Fox defended and rebounded like crazy.

East should have at least been even after the first quarter, but it missed eight point-blank shots and managed to dig a 14-6 hole.

East’s strongest quarter was the second. The 6-foot-4 Wike (12 rebounds, five blocks) and the 6-3 Fisher were scoring in the paint, and Casey Gullett and Amani Ajayi provided energy off the bench. It was 18-18 when NI coach Bradley Gabriel got his team’s attention with a timeout two minutes before halftime. Cartner responded with a three-point play, and the Raiders didn’t trail again.

North Iredell’s lead was 24-20 when the second half began, but it settled the game with an 8-0 run over the next few minutes. Lunsford went coast-to-coast. Fox scored on a runout. Cartner made a layup. Blevins got an easy one when East didn’t get back.

“Those transition buckets they got were just huge,” Porter said. “We were pouting about calls when we should have been sprinting back.”

The 5-10 Cartner and 5-8 Fox dominated the paint in the second half.

Wike and Fisher were 0-for-9 from the field after halftime, while Cartner, who was being guarded by Sydney Poole, and Fox were scoring 17 points.

“No. 14 (Wike) was getting position too deep on us in the first half,” Gabriel said. “The adjustment we made at the half was having Cartner use her legs to push her as far away from the basket as she could. No. 14 got one point in the second half. That was all Cartner.”

East’s offense in the second half came from Poole, who had an eight-point flurry in the third quarter, and Caroline Fry, who took advantage of good screens to nail two 3s in the fourth.

“We ran some good plays, and I had the open shots,” Fry said.

The Mustangs were confident they would match up OK with North Iredell, but it just didn’t happen.

“It’s really hard to say what makes North Iredell as good as they are,” Fry said. “I was kind of shocked when they beat West Rowan, but they’re the No. 1 seed and they played like they were still on fire from beating West.”

East will be in the playoffs. North Iredell will play either Carson or West Rowan in Friday’s title game at 6.

   EAST ROWAN (40) —Wike 9, Poole 8, Fry 6, Fisher 6, Lowe 5, Ajayi 4, Gullett 2, Gobble, Thomas, Sides

NORTH IREDELL (57) — Cartner 18, Blevins 11, Johnson 10, Lunsford 10, Fox 7, Moore 1, Tomlin.

  E. Rowan 6 14 11 9 — 40

N. Iredell 14 10 21 12 — 57

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