High school boys basketball: East loses thriller in OT

Published 6:50 am Thursday, January 5, 2023


By Mike London

GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan players exited their home gym on Wednesday wandering in a daze and wondering how in the world this one got away.

The Mustang boys led by as many as 15 points, but West Stanly prevailed 90-89 in overtime.

It was a magnificent game considering that neither the Mustangs (3-8) nor the Colts (5-10) have much of a record. It was wide-open entertainment from start to finish, with the constantly pressing Colts creating a frenzied tempo.

“People look at us and see us play and who would believe that we’re 3-8,” sighed East head coach Andrew Porter said. “But that’s our record. The frustrating thing is we’ve been in position to win quite a few games, but we just haven’t been able to finish. We’re a good team, I know we are, but our record doesn’t indicate it.”

At some point, things might even out. East might get some breaks and some bounces and knock off some people. But it has to be depressing to be 3-8 with two guys in the lineup who are clearly among the county’s elite players.

East had a pretty firm grip on Wednesday’s game for a long time mostly because Tee Harris turned in another super outing. The 6-foot-6 senior scored 27 efficient points, making three 3-pointers. He pulled down 14 rebounds, blocked seven shots and changed about seven more. He threw down a tomahawk dunk with a drive that began at least 30 feet from the hoop. He had seven assists and handled the ball smoothly and made solid decisions as the primary press-breaker.

Dylan Valley, the other half of East’s dynamic duo, did his part. The senior guard made six 3-pointers and scored 26.

Jonathan Wembolua, starting to emerge as a major threat, chimed in with a career-best 16 points. Like Harris, he threw down a dazzling dunk.

Yet, East came up short when West Stanly guard Camden Nahrgang drove the ball 70 feet for a game-winning layup as time expired in the overtime.

West Stanly has embraced the offensive philosophy of shooting nothing but 3-pointers and layups. The Colts rained 14 3-pointers, including five during their wild fourth-quarter rally, but it was their layups that killed the Mustangs. East couldn’t stay in front of guards Nahrang, Matthew Parker and Jaxson Hinton, and they finished a high percentage of their drives.

Wembolua came out of the locker room fired up. He scored nine in the first quarter, but West Stanly led 22-21 after a quarter.

East owned the second quarter, putting up 30 points. Harris looked to dish in the second quarter, and Valley and Tijon Everhart (12 points) were making shots. The Mustangs led by as many as 14 in that second quarter, but when Harris sat down for a breather, West Stanly quickly cut into the Mustangs’ lead, East took a 51-41 lead to the break.

The Mustangs maintained their lead in the third quarter, with Valley nailing a 3-pointer to make it 66-56 as the period closed.

East flirted with a knockout punch early in the fourth quarter. When Valley struck from long distance one more time, East led 71-56 — a 15-point bulge, the game’s biggest lead —  the East gym was shaking, and the scoreboard clock said there were less than seven minutes left to play.

Surely, it was time for the Colts to start the bus and head back to Oakboro.

It probably was all over if  West Stanly had missed its next shot, but Jesse Boone, a husky forward who has a methodical catapult of a 3-point shot, refused to miss. His calm and cool 3-pointer made it a 12-point game.

The Colts pressed, East turned it over, and Parker didn’t miss his open 3-pointer, either. Then it was Boone again, an old-fashioned and-one where he just outworked people. In a matter of about a minute, East went from cruise control to right back in the middle of a  dogfight.

It was a dogfight the Mustangs would lose. The Colts had caught fire.

Valley tried. He made a clutch 3-pointer off a screen and roll by Harris for a one-point East lead with two minutes left. It was a bomb, way out, from almost straight away.

With East down 83-81 and time running out in regulation, Harris went spinning into the lane and finished through all kinds of contact for 83-all and overtime.

East had the lead in the overtime at 85-83 when Harris stuck back his own point-blank miss.

Wembolua got loose and dunked on a break for an 87-85 East lead.

East trailed 88-87 when Harris put it on his shoulders again on a late drive. He missed but scored off the rebound. East led 89-88. The clock showed 3.8 seconds left, as West Stanly frantically got a timeout.

Officials put 4.5 seconds on the clock, and after taking the inbounds pass, Nahrgang set sail full court, almost unimpeded, on the journey against the clock that would decide the game in the Colts’ favor. He sank his flying layup, and the visitors celebrated.

“We played a good game, with so many guys stepping up,” Porter said. “We did everything but secure the stop at the end. We’ve got to find a way to get the stops when we need them. This is hard because I really feel like we deserved to win this one. Right now, it’s just not bouncing our way.”


West Stanly   22   19   15  27   7   — 90

East Rowan  21    30   15  17   6   — 89

East — Harris 27, Valley 26, Wembolua 16, Everhart 12, Sprinkle 3, Haynes 3, Danzine 2.