02/17/12 — Rams can't handle EW press

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Rams can't handle EW press

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 17, 2012 1:48 PM

A year ago, Eastern Wayne won just five games and finished near the bottom of the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference.

That was then, this is now.

The Warriors forced 37 turnovers and nine different players scored in a 59-42 win over Cleveland on Thursday evening in the semifinals of the ECC girls' basketball tournament. Eastern Wayne faces Charles B. Aycock in tonight's tournament finals at Triton. Tip-off is 6 p.m.

The Warriors used tenacious ball pressure to create eight turnovers in the first quarter. Those turnovers led to transition baskets and a 14-9 lead after the opening eight minutes.

"We did a good job of pressuring the ball," Eastern Wayne head coach Tyrone Wagner said. "We've talked about pressure and we did a nice job with our man-to-man press."

The Warriors scored the first eight points of the second quarter to extend their lead to 22-9. The Rams were held scoreless over the final three minutes of the first half and trailed 29-12 at the break.

Eastern Wayne patiently moved the ball on offense and worked to get open shots against Cleveland's 2-3 zone defense. The margin swelled to 37-21 after three quarters. Najah Muhammad led the Warriors with 12 points and Shontel Monk contributed 11 points. Megan Mozingo supplied nine points and Tiana Christopher had seven points.

"We struggled early in the season against the zone," Wagner said. "We kind of went back and looked at our weakness to figure out why we couldn't score. We designed a few more plays to open the zone up."

The Rams closed to within 39-28 early in the fourth quarter before Eastern Wayne pulled away. Alliyah Sands scored 14 points for Cleveland.

Eastern Wayne split a pair of regular-season meetings with Aycock, including a 41-40 victory just a few days ago in New Hope.

"It helps knowing we've beaten them," Wagner said. "We do have a very young team, but knowing that we have beaten them before is a big boost in confidence."