Girls Basketball: South cruises past Mustangs

Published 11:04 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2017

By Mike London

GRANITE QUARRY — South Rowan’s girls were scintillating for the first five minutes and coasted to victory at East Rowan, 69-39,  on Wednesday.

“We had a good start, but it was a lot like Thanksgiving dinner,” South coach John Davis said. “We got that turkey in us and we were feeling pretty good, but then we got sleepy. We kind of turned it on and off all night.”

South (3-3) was on top 17-2 after six minutes, trapping out of a 2-3 zone and creating East turnovers that led to easy finishes by Downs, a 5-foot-11 junior point guard, and her senior running mate Tazah Hardin.

“Our last couple of games we’ve been able to come out and get on top of people like that,” said Downs, who scored 26 points. “We played hard on defense.”

Whitley Arnott, South’s 6-foot sophomore post player, is known mostly for slinging softballs as an all-county pitcher, but she’s developing into a force in hoops. She blocked three shots in the early going. Those rejections aided South’s first-quarter feast.

“I had perfect timing on some of them,” Arnott said. “I  kept my hand up, and didn’t slap down.”

East coach Kevin Holland has seen similar beginnings more times than he cares to remember.

“A slow first quarter has been kind of a broken record for us,” Holland said. “We have no margin for error. We have to box out and we have to limit turnovers. We don’t match up in size or athleticism with most of the teams we play, and when we turn it over and can’t set our defense, we’re in trouble. You can accept it when an opponent makes a good play and forces a turnover, but I thought most of our early turnovers were unforced. They just piled up on us.”

Grace Eagle (12 points) scored East’s first basket to make it 6-2, but the Mustangs were already down by 15 points when Hollie Harrison banked in a shot to end a four-minute drought.

South led after a quarter, 20-4, with Downs and Hardin teaming for 15.

“We do what we can in practice with seven players,” Holland said. “We work against our jayvees a lot, but it’s not like your jayvees can simulate players who are as talented as Downs and Hardin. They’re great athletes, and right now, a lot of the teams in this county have two or three special players like that.”

East (1-6) played its strongest basketball in the second quarter. Eagle, Caroline Houpe and Brooke Mitchell knocked down 3-pointers in the quarter over South’s zone. East trailed at the break, 35-20.

When Adalie Harrison made a nice pass that got Mitchell loose for another 3-pointer to start the second half, East was only down a dozen points, but that was a wakeup call for Downs.  She got two quick buckets and Riley Corriher chipped in with a free throw to push the lead back to 17. East never threatened again.

“We were trying our best to draw charges on Downs when she drove and we were in good position several times,” Holland said. “But she’s so shifty. She still gets around you and gets her shot off.”

Downs pushed her career scoring total to 1,097. She’s No. 8 on South’s all-time list with a long way to go. She has a chance to be the fourth girl in county history to reach 2,000.

Davis got a scare when he entered the South locker room prior to the game and found Downs lying on the floor. Downs strained a back muscle during volleyball season (she was all-county) and it tightens up at times. Apparently it tightened up so much, she fell off a bench, but she was joking about it after the game and said she felt fine. She certainly didn’t look limited on the court, and whenever South needed something, she made the play —  whether it was a shot, a pass, a steal or a rebound.

The deeper Raiders got  3-pointers from Brooke Lowery, Madison McGuire and Courtney Mullins and three inside buckets from Jaleah Butler to pull away. East was worn out in the fourth quarter, too weary to make any sort of run.

“Both sides played hard, and I was impressed with how hard East’s girls fought,” Davis said. “The biggest issue for us right now is consistency. We just have to find a way to play well throughout a game.”


NOTES: Hardin went to the floor after sailing in for a fourth-quarter layup, but Davis said she’s OK, that it was just a cramp. … East made only three buckets in the second half but cashed in 11 free throws. … South is only 3-3, but that’s mostly because of a rugged early schedule that included Carson, Ledford and East Davidson.


South 69, East 39

S. ROWAN (3-3)

Downs 26, Hardin 13, Corriher 10, Butler 6, Arnott 4, Lowery 4, McGuire 3, Mullins 3, Shell, Massey, Chabala.

E. ROWAN (1-6)

Eagle 12, Houpe 9, H. Harrison 6, Mitchell 6,  A. Harrison 3, Fraley 3, Miller.

S. Rowan     20     15    15   19   — 69

E. Rowan        4     16    7   12  —  39