ERHS Wins Easily
Eagles Beat Nelson, 76-48
ELKTON — Mark Palmer’s East Rockingham High School boys’ basketball team is full of two- and three-sport athletes – meaning turnout will be a little smaller when spring sports practices begin Monday. Shannon Cross, Ryan Dovel and Bret Reel won’t be on the diamond and neither will a couple of other track and soccer players.
“A lot of our kids are saying, ‘Coach Palmer, it’s cold out and there’s a lot of snow and we aren’t ready for baseball,’” Palmer said. “We didn’t want it to end tonight.”
His players got their wish, pounding Nelson County 76-48 in the Conference 36 quarterfinals Monday night, which guarantees the Eagles will play at least three more games this season. The top four teams from C36 – including ERHS – advance to the 2A East Regional tournament.
Next up is the No. 1 seed in Conference 36: Wilson Memorial, a team East Rockingham went 1-1 against this year. The Eagles were crushed 70-40 on Jan. 10 at Wilson and recently defeated the Hornets 50-40 on Senior Night in Elkton.
“They play a 2-3 zone, so we just have to hit our shots and don’t make unnecessary turnovers,” junior wing Logan Lam said of Wilson. “We can’t have those.”
For stretches against Nelson, the Eagles (10-13) did not look like a team winning by as many as 28 points. East Rockingham missed easy layups and turned it over 16 times in the last three quarters, but used a shutout second quarter to blow away the Governors (5-13).
According to Palmer, it was the first time in East Rock’s four-year existence that a boys’ team has held a team scoreless in a period.
“We kept the ball in front, and they were trying to figure out how to penetrate it and they rushed some shots,” Palmer said. “They didn’t shoot it well and we knew they weren’t a great outside shooting team. In the last two weeks we’ve played our best basketball, and the 2-3 zone has been really good to us.”
Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. matchup in Fishersville will be a matchup of two stingy zone defenses.
The Eagles have tinkered with their lineup this season and finally settled on the zone defense around the beginning of February. With 6-6 senior center Joseph Gooden and 6-5 junior forward Jeff Bailey patrolling the middle and a rotation of capable guards outside, the zone is a perfect fit.
“It’s because of our size,” Palmer said. “We have 6-6 and 6-5. It’s going to be the war of the 2-3 zone on Wednesday. Whoever gets to 50 [points] first will win.”
Lam, a long, athletic scorer with 36- and 40-point games this season, led the Eagles with a modest 16 on Monday. He said the zone defense fits East Rockingham’s personnel perfectly.
“When we play that 2-3 zone, we got to make sure we get to the shooters and it’s all about limiting the second-chance buckets. I think it fits our team well. We have big guys in the middle, so if they do penetrate we can kind of clog up the middle. It depends on who you play – sometimes you have to extend it and sometimes you pack it in.”
Nelson was missing senior center Tony Barnett due to personal reasons while junior guard Nick McGarry played sparingly due to illness. Senior wing Kyle White and senior guard Kirby White each scored 15 points to lead the Governors.
Nelson shot 9 percent in the first half en route to a 34-10 deficit.
“[East Rock] is long, and anytime you’re long the zone is going to work for you,” Nelson coach Brandon Garrett said. “They get a hand out on the shooter and the coach does a good job with them. They can run three or four different things every time down the floor and not miss a beat. That’s the sign of a good basketball team.”
While the Eagles have seen Wilson twice already this season, Palmer called the Hornets “the biggest team we’ll play this year.”
Seven-foot-2 junior center Dean Shaner is tough to get used to.
“It makes you work more to get a shot up,” Gooden said. “You got to go to different moves and stuff. It’s kind of interesting. I’m used to being the guy that can block everything, but now it’s him.”
Kirby 15, White 15, McGarry 5, Taylor 4, Gray 3, Hughes 2, Martin 2, Thompson 2. Totals: 48.
Lam 16, James 14, Comer 12, Bailey 13, Harman 7, Dovel 8, Gooden 4, Reel 3, Cross 1. Totals: 76.
Nelson 10 0 22 16 – 48
East Rock 16 18 24 18 – 76
3-Pointers—N 6 (White 4, Gray 1, Kirby 1); ER 2 (Harman, Reel).