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East Rowan girls clinch share of SPC

GRANITE QUARRY — It has been a full decade since the East Rowan basketball girls have hung a championship banner in their gym. But the wait appears to be over.
The Mustangs put four players in double figures Wednesday night and turned back a major second half rally by Hickory Ridge to post a 67-51 victory. The win secured at least a tie for the South Piedmont Conference regular season title for East (17-3, 13-1) with two games left. The Raging Bulls (12-8, 9-4) fell out of a second-place tie with the loss but it wasn’t for lack of effort.
East used the inside scoring of Kelli Fisher and the outside shooting of Lauren Thomas to forge a 35-20 lead at the half. When Thomas banked in a three at the halftime buzzer it appeared the Mustangs were not only in control, but living a charmed existence as well.
But someone forgot to tell Hickory Ridge. Senior guard Kiana Davis posted back to back three-point plays then point guard Laura McManimen converted a steal to a lay-up. Just like that the lead was down to seven at 35-28. East pushed it back to 10 on inside buckets by Fisher and Karleigh Wike but the Lady Bulls kept attacking the middle, hitting their free throws and applying the pressure. Stacia Means converted yet another and-one at the 2:28 mark of the third and the East lead was suddenly down to 42-39.
But after a lot of bending, East refused to break.
“We just needed to step up to the challenge and that is what we did,” stated Fisher who led the win with 18 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. But Fisher picked up her fourth foul late in the third period so it was up to others to save the day. Wike responded with a lay-up, a blocked shot then a jumper to make the score 46-39.
Then sophomore guard Shenell Pharr made a key steal followed by a three pointer to expand the lead to 49-39. The Bulls trailed 49-41 after three but were unable to make another run.
East salted it away in the final minutes with key free throws by Pharr, Jocelyn Lowe and Wike.
Wike, the 6-4 forward headed to Richmond next season, wasn’t immediately aware the win clinched a tie for the SPC crown but was satisfied.
“I know every time we all step out there we want to win,” Wike said. “ We try not to think ahead but focus on what’s going on right then. I am proud of our team that is getting better and improving every game.”
Wike had the same kind of dominating performance as Fisher with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Pharr and Thomas, who had three treys, each posted 13. Lowe rounded it out with seven.
Davis led the Bulls with 24 while Means had 12.
“I told our kids to stay focused and keep fighting,” Bulls coach Tolanda Simmons said. “ We came back then we just missed some shots. This is a tough place to play.”
East Coach Danielle Porter was glad her team has a grip on their first title since 2004 but wants more. “Now we want to win it outright because it has been a long time,” she stated. “All of these girls have worked really hard and deserve everything that is happening for them. I am proud of all of them”
HICKORY RIDGE (51) — Davis 24, Means 12, McManimen 8, Wallace 3, Jones 2, Brown 1, Rowden 1, Evans, Miller.
EAST ROWAN (67) — Fisher 18, Wike 16, Thomas 13, Shenell Pharr 13, Lowe 7, Ajayi, Shenq. Pharr, McCree, Benge.
Hickory Ridge 11 9 21 10 — 51
East Rowan 16 19 14 18 — 67

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