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West rallies in fourth quarter to beat East girls

By Marny Hendrick

sports@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The East Rowan girls appeared on the cusp of doing something remarkable in the opening game of the 45th annual Dale’s Sporting Goods/Sam Moir Christmas Classic Wednesday morning.

Then it all fell apart.

The sixth-seeded Mustangs held a slim lead over No. 3-seed West Rowan for most of the first three quarters and entered the final period up, 32-31. The Falcon girls then amped up the defensive pressure and went inside time after time to Egypt Alexander and freshman center Abigail Wilson to win by a deceptively wide margin, 53-34.

“We just picked up our defensive intensity, put more pressure on the ball and started making good decisions,” said West coach Ashley Poole of her team’s fourth-quarter blitz. “We finally started finishing our layups, made good passes and played like a basketball team.”

West ( 7-2) now advances to a semifinal match-up with No. 2-seed Carson at 3 pm this afternoon at Goodman Gym. East falls to 3-9 and takes on No. 7-seed Davie County at 9 a.m. this morning in the consolation bracket.

Just two weeks ago, East was pummeled by 40 points in a South Piedmont Conference game at West Rowan, so expectations were not high for the tournament opener Wednesday morning. But the Falcons started the game 0-for-8 from the floor while East used six points from freshman guard Adalie Harrison to take a quick, 8-4 lead.

The Mustangs’ lead reached five at 19-14 in the second period  and went to 30-24, late in the third quarter on five points by Zynoria Winford and inside play from 6-1 junior Anna Shafer. West battled back, but a Jordan McCall jumper at the third-quarter buzzer gave the Mustangs a surprising 32-31 lead.

Just as suddenly and decisively, the Falcons flipped the switch as Alexander scored five points inside and on the line. Then a 3-point dagger from Miyanna Pruitt put West firmly in control at 43-32 with 4:18 remaining. The Falcons scored 22 straight points in the quarter to win going away, as East managed only a pair of McCall free throws with 31.9 seconds left.

“In the first half, we just could not get anything to fall,” noted Alexander, a junior forward who finished with a double-double — 11 points and 13 rebounds. “So I just started passing the ball around and finding open people. We just stepped it up because we didn’t want to start this tournament with a loss.”

Mustangs’ coach Kevin Holland, making his Christmas tournament debut, was proud of his team’s effort but noted that the defensive pressure from West and missed shots made the difference in the upset bid.

“It was sure a lot of improvement from the first time we played them,” Holland said. “But we are so dependent on making our shots and I could see when we started missing there in the fourth quarter, it was really affecting us. We just need to fix the little things to be more competitive and more confident down to the end of the game.”

The Falcons placed three players in double figures, led by Wilson with 16 points and nine rebounds, Alexander with 13 points and Mary Sobataka with 10. Adalie Harrison and Shafer topped the Mustangs with nine points each.

EAST ROWAN (34) — A. Harrison 9, Shafer 9, Winford 6, McCall 4, Wagner 3, Houpe 2, H. Harrison 1, Trexler, Coughenour, Graham.

WEST ROWAN (53) — Wilson 16, Alexander 11, Sobataka 10, Pruitt 6, Poole 5, Hillie 5, Fesperman, Vaughter, Robinson, Blabon.

East Rowan            8    11    13    2  — 34

West Rowan           8    10   13  22 — 53

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