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Middle School Girls: Erwin goes undefeated

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

SPENCER — Erwin’s top-seeded girls staked a claim as one of the best middle school teams in county history on Wednesday, by rolling over second-seeded Southeast, 45-19, in the championship game at North Rowan Middle School.

This group was 17-0 this season after going 17-0 as seventh-graders last winter. The starting five is made up of Carleigh Perry, Colbie Perry, Lani Isley, Jenna Robinson and Liza Simmerson.

“That’s 34-0, and I don’t believe anyone’s ever done that,” Erwin coach Kim Caldwell said. “These girls also were 10-0 at Catawba’s team camp, so I’m calling it 44-0.”

Carleigh Perry scored 20 points, so she outscored Southeast’s Patriots by herself, but she was smart enough to realize she didn’t do it by herself.

“We were getting a lot of easy layups off our press,” Perry said. “And we’ve got a great point guard (Isley). She made so many great passes today.”

Isley, a floorleader and ballhandler who had eight assists, seldom shoots, but she’s the ringleader of Erwin’s dominance. She set up Carleigh Perry three times early in the game, as the Eagles stormed  to a 9-0 lead.

That lead reached 20-2 in the third quarter.

“Our press works when the girls will run it, and they were running it today,” Caldwell said. “I’m very proud of the way they played.”

When Carleigh Perry, saddled with three fouls, sat down for the last few minutes of the first half, Southeast made a run behind guard Ellie Wilhelm and post player Jaden Vaughn to get within 20-9 at halftime.

“It was a little nerve-wracking to have those three fouls before halftime,” Carleigh Perry said.

It appeared that if Southeast could get the fourth foul on her early in the third quarter, things might get interesting, but that didn’t happen. She played foul-free in the second half.

“I never hesitated to put her back on the floor to start the second half,” Caldwell said. “We had confidence in her and we had confidence in our bench if she did get in trouble.”

Colbie Perry, Carleigh’s cousin, had been quiet in the first half, but when she got rolling, it was all over. She hit a 3-pointer to start the second half for a 23-9 lead. Her second 3-pointer of the third quarter made it 34-14. She made another 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points.

Erwin’s other two starters contributed quite a bit. Jenna Robinson is tall and had six points and at least that many rebounds. Liza Simmerson, known mostly for softball, was the bounciest athlete on the floor. On the play that pushed Erwin’s lead to 38-14 at the end of the third quarter, Simmerson grabbed a defensive board, fired an outlet pass, and then sprinted down the floor in time to  successfully follow up a missed layup.

“When I told Liza a year ago, she needed to try basketball, she laughed,” Caldwell said. “She’d never played before. But she’s such a good athlete that she’s going to become a good basketball player.”

Vaughn and Wilhelm, familiar names from Rowan County Little League’s World Series softball  teams,  led Southeast with seven points each.

Southeast, coached by Rob Hales, did a great job to rally past Knox in the semifinals, but it had little chance in the final.

Erwin’s starters sat down with 2:50 remaining, holding a 45-15 lead, and with their perfect record in middle school assured.

NOTES: The Perrys are related to Carson boys coach Brian Perry. Carleigh is his niece,  while Colbie is his daughter. Both will be heading to Carson. Caldwell said four of her starters plan to go to Carson.

SOUTHEAST (19) —Vaughn 7, Wilhelm 7, Thompson 2, Hamilton 2, Barger 1.

ERWIN (45) — Carleigh Perry 20, Colbie Perry 10, Robinson 6, Simmerson 5, Isley 4.

Southeast                     2         7      5      5  —  19

Erwin                           10       10     18    7  — 45

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