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Prep Basketball: East girls fight, but lose

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan’s girls lost their 13th in a row on Tuesday night.

That streak started last January, right after East beat North Rowan in a Christmas tournament consolation game. But it’s hard to keep a patient man down, and East coach Kevin Holland’s middle name might be Patience.

“I know we don’t have many players,” Holland said. “But we’re a better team than we were last season. I believe that.”

Down to seven bodies now that Nicole Fleming officially will miss the season with an ACL injury, the Mustangs (0-2) gave Holland  their worst and their best in Tuesday’s 51-45 non-conference setback to Central Cabarrus.

The Mustangs were so shaky in the third quarter when they turned the ball over an astounding 16 times that Holland probably wanted to break a clipboard and make a break for the parking lot.

But then East wasn’t bad at all in the fourth quarter, taking care of the ball and managing to put a mild scare into the Vikings (1-0), a club some believe is the team to beat in the South Piedmont Conference.

Central coach Brandon Blalock has athletes, good ones, but at least in their first game on Tuesday, the Vikings played cohesively only in short bursts.

“We’re inexperienced and our point guard is injured,” Blalock said. “At times tonight, we just looked really young.”

East got clobbered on the boards in the first quarter by the Vikings, who were taller as well as springier, but the Mustangs hung in there. They got 3-pointers from Adalie Harrison and Caroline Houpe and trailed 11-9.

East had 17 turnovers by halftime, but was still in the game. Hollie Harrison. Adalie’s older sister, made four free throws in the second quarter, while Zee Winford and Grace Eagle tossed in 3-pointers. Eagle flipped in her 3 from the left wing as the second quarter was ending, and the Mustangs headed to the locker room, down 24-22, but feeling pretty good.

There also was bad news in the second quarter. Houpe got her third foul going over the back of Central’s Aniyah Tate on a missed free throw, and the Mustangs have a difficult time playing without Houpe, who gives them another ball-handler, outside shooting and a lot of rebounds.

Central picked up the intensity as the second half began, Neveah Brown got several easy buckets off the press, and the Vikings enjoyed a 10-0 run to lead by 12.

“We were turning it over and things were snowballing,” Holland said. “I used a timeout, tried to get everyone calm and collected, but it was a very bad quarter.”

Winford made a driving and-one for the Mustangs to stop the bleeding with 2:34 left in the third quarter. When her shot dropped, it was East’s first two-point bucket of the night.

The quarter ended with East down, 44-27, and there was every reason for the exhausted Mustangs to quit.

They didn’t.

“That third quarter it seemed like we were just standing around watching, mostly watching them shoot layups,” Hollie Harrison said. “We looked done because we were down 17, but I knew we weren’t done. In the fourth quarter, we cut their lead a lot.”

Hollie Harrison made a free throw to open the fourth quarter, and then the Mustangs had their best play of the night. Winford got a steal, made a nice pass, and Adalie Harrison finished on the break. That made it 44-30.

East got several defensive stops. When Brooke Mitchell made a 3-pointer with 2:20 remaining, Central’s lead was only 48-38.

With 1:39 left, Faith Holit hit a 3-pointer that should have iced it for Central, but East answered with a 3-pointer from the left side by Hollie Harrison, off her sister’s assist. When Hollie Harrison made two more free throws with 49 seconds left, East was down 51-44.

“We showed in the third quarter what we’re capable of doing,” Blalock said. “But we did a lot of silly things in the fourth quarter.”

Winford took a charge with 37 seconds left, and Hollie Harrison added one last free throw — she got 11 of her 14 points from the line — for the final margin. East won the fourth quarter, 18-7.

“We’ve just got to play four quarters like we played the last one,” Hollie Harrison said.

Holland agreed with that.

“If I could bottle that fourth quarter, I would,” he said. “But I knew we wouldn’t give up. We’ve got good kids. They’re going to play hard.”

 

Central Cabarrus 51, East Rowan 45

CENTRAL CABARRUS (51)

N. Brown 17, Benton 9, Tate 7, Holit 7, Ussery 5, Van Dyke 2, Biddy 2, Mpembu 2.

EAST ROWAN (45)

H. Harrison 14, Winford 8, A. Harrison 7, Houpe 7, Mitchell 5, Eagle 3, Fraley 1.

C.Cabarrus        11   13   20   7  —   51

E. Rowan           9   13    5   18  — 45

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