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GRANITE QUARRY — The Salisbury girls are experiencing growing pains while the veteran East Rowan Mustangs are definitely fully grown and getting stronger.
The difference was most painfully obvious in the middle two quarters of Wednesday’s game at East when the Mustangs put on a defensive clinic, turning a competitive battle into an eventual 63-45 rout.
“Defense is really our focus this year,” East coach Danielle Porter noted. “I have been trying to sell them on the fact that you can change the momentum of a game in just a split second with your defense.”
And that is exactly what the Mustangs (4-0) made happen against the Hornets (1-5). Salisbury led early then East surged ahead 15-12 after one quarter.
The score was knotted at 18-18 on a three point play by Hornet Monifa Angle with 5:51 left in the half. It was close then suddenly it wasn’t.
Pressure defense led by Amani Ajayi, freshman Shenique Pharr and Jocelyn Lowe produced a series of turnovers and steals. Ajayi, a junior wing was the main catalyst with a pair of steals, two fast break lay-up and a three pointer.
In the meantime, the 18-18 tie was suddenly a 19 point deficit. The Hornets went a full four minutes without a point and ended the half down 36-20.
“The second quarter has been bad for us all season”, Hornet coach Lakai Brice noted. “It is like one bad turnover and we just drop our heads and it all goes wrong.”
It only got worse in the third period as East outscored the Hornets 14-4 and went ahead 50-24. A nine point outburst by Angle in the fourth period made the final a bit more respectable but never in doubt.
As expected the young Hornet team had a true challenge in attacking and defending the Muststang inside game of 6-4 Karliegh Wike and 6-3 Kelli Fisher. Wike, a Richmond signee, had a stellar outing with 17 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks. Fisher had foul problems and managed just two points but had 8 rebounds and disrupted a lot inside.
But the true leader for East in this win was the versatile Ajayi. She played in the spot usually occupied by senior leader Lauren Thomas, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Ajayi responded with 17 points of her own plus eight rebounds and four steals.
“I just wanted to be a leader tonight and step up with Lauren out,” Ajayi said. “I wanted to play with the best of my ability.”
Freshman guard Shenique Pharr contributed by using her speed to produce steals, score nine points and snag a number of weak side rebounds.
“We are kind of adjusting right now without Lauren,” Porter said.” She is not only a great shooter but a very strong mental player. But Amani is filing in well.”
Other than a poor night of foul shooting (11 of 25 overall), Porter is pleased with the team’s effort so far this year.
They are home again this Friday against Carson while Salisbury hosts North Wilkes.
SALISBURY (45) — Angle 14, Alexander 11, Philpot 8, Wolfe 6, Anderson 4, Charles 2, Hightower, Harris
EAST ROWAN (63) — Ajayi 17, Wike 17, Lowe 9, Shenque Pharr 9, Shenell Pharr 6, McCree 3, Fisher 2, Benge, Drew.
Salisbury 12 8 4 21 — 45
E. Rowan 15 21 14 13 — 63

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