Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 11, 2014
LANDIS — South Rowan sophomore Christian Holbrook rose high above a crowd of players in the lane to pull down the game’s biggest rebound.
On a Friday night when the South student section employed a superheroes theme, Holbrook wasn’t out of place with bleachers full of Captain Americas and Batmen.
He could’ve kicked the Justice League of America or the Avengers by himself, and he was the surprising, driving force in South’s 60-53 SPC win against East Rowan.
South played without high-jumping T’Vadis Graham-Wesley, so it figured to struggle on the boards. It didn’t, and that mostly was due to Holbrook, who had 18 points and double-digit rebounds.
“All I know is we didn’t have ‘T’ tonight, so we all had to rebound better,” Holbrook said. “We got enough rebounds to get the win, and I was very happy with that.”
Donte Means scored a season-high 22 points for East, and Austin Love had his biggest game in a long while with 14, but South (7-8, 3-4) got it done. Holbrook got scoring help from guards Qwan Rhyne (15 points) and Shawn Spry (10).
“South really crashed the boards hard on us,” East coach Trey Ledbetter said. “It seemed like they got 35 extra possessions off 35 offensive rebounds in the first quarter.”
A lot of that was Holbrook. He’d scored 22 points in an early-season game against Central Davidson, but this was his biggest game against a league or county rival. This was his best game in a heated environment.
“There are times when Christian still doesn’t understand how well he can play,” South coach Bryan Withers said. “He has some ability and when he stays under control, he can be tough. I’d agree that he was the difference in the game tonight.”
South’s up-and-down season has been well-documented. This marked the third time the Raiders have been able to string together back-to-back victories. They haven’t had a three-game winning streak yet, but it could be coming.
“We did a lot of the things we want to do,” Withers said. “We were able to play man-to-man and we defended pretty well. We want to get a lot of people involved in the scoring, and we moved the ball and were able to do that. We can be good. I believe that.”
Lavon Hill chipped in with seven points for South and some key rebounds. Eric Goldston, Colson Childers and Tyler Rary contributed buckets.
East (3-10, 1-6) was good at times, especially when it poured in 26 points in the fourth quarter. But the Mustangs made just one field goal in the second quarter and only two buckets in the third.
“The plan was to come out harder than South did, but they matched our intensity in the first quarter and they had more intensity in the second and third,” Ledbetter said. “But that’s kind of who we are. We play well in the first and fourth quarters but not in the middle.”
Love hit two 3-pointers as East took a 15-11 lead after a quarter.
But a layup by Harrison Bell provided East’s only field goal in the second quarter.
Holbrook had three quick buckets in that period, and Rhyne had a momentum-building block against Bell to stop a fastbreak.
South took a 27-19 lead to halftime.
Spry was scoreless in the first half, but the Raiders got him going shortly after halftime.
He and Holbrook had six points each in the third quarter. Austin Wyse had a 3-pointer for the Mustangs, but South took a 41-27 lead to the final eight minutes.
That lead looked safe until Means got warm. His 12-point fourth quarter included two 3-balls, and when he scored in transition with 3:15 remaining, South’s lead was sliced down to 47-39.
East had to chase and foul, however, and the Raiders were solid at the foul line down the stretch. South got 23 of its 33 second-half points on free throws, and 15 were in the fourth quarter. Rhyne made six in the final quarter, Spry made four, Holbrook three and Hill two.
Holbrook skied for his super-heroic rebound when Seth Wyrick missed a 3-point try with 41 seconds left. That was the last gasp for East.
“Holbrook gets up like that in practice sometimes,” Spry said. “He’s got a lot of ability, and he can do so many things, he’s a matchup problem. He just doesn’t realize yet how good he can be.”
Probably he started realizing it at some point Friday.
Holbrook’s not ready to be fitted for a cape yet, but he was pretty good.
“I know I made some good shots, but I missed a lot of shots too,” Holbrook said. “I know I’ve got a lot to work on. Coach told us after we lost to North (Monday) that the North guys were working harder than we were. I’ve been doing a lot of calf raises, and I guess that’s where the jumping comes in.”
East lost its fourth straight game since it stunned West Rowan at home for its lone SPC victory.
“That was just an effort game right there,” Ledbetter said. “You have to do the little things to win a game like that, and the teams we’re playing keep on doing them and we’re not.”
Ledbetter praised Dock Corpening’s effort on the glass. Samuel Wyrick didn’t play much and didn’t play at all in the second half.
Ledbetter said that was his decision. Wyrick isn’t injured.
East outscored South 24-6 at the 3-point line, but the Raiders had an enormous 30-9 edge on made free throws.
EAST ROWAN (53) — Means 22, Love 14, Wyse 6, Se. Wyrick 3, Caldwell 2, Corpening 2, Moses 2, Bell 2, Sa. Wyrick, Soles.
SOUTH ROWAN (60) — Holbrook 18, Rhyn e 15, Spry 10, Hill 7, Rary 4, Goldston 3, Childers 3, Stewart, Finger, Wilder, Littlejohn.
E. Rowan 15 4 8 26 — 53
S. Rowan 11 16 14 19 — 60