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KNIGHTDALE — The East Wake High boys basketball squad broke a five-game losing streak vs. nearest rival Knightdale by beating them on the road, 68-52 on Dec. 18.
The Warriors (6-2) saddled the double-double wide shoulders of center Javon Mercer (24 points, 17 rebounds), who scored 10 of the team’s first 12 points and almost immediately put the enemy front line in foul trouble. His inside presence compensated for an outside Warrior game which knocked down only 1-of-11 3-pointers.
Knightdale (6-3) suffered its second-straight loss despite not committing a turnover in the entire first quarter. The hosts still trailed, 18-14, due in large part to Mercer’s single-handed dozen.
That edge was stretched to nine points by halftime as East Wake guard Isaiah Holman (12 points, four assists, four rebounds) proved practically unguardable on lane drives and foul draws. He and Mercer downed a majority of the constantly attacking squad’s 21-of-25 free throws.
The Knights forged just one tie, at 14-14, before the grips on this series installment slipped away. Another inaccuracy effort from beyond the arc (4-of-20, 20 percent) left it 6-of-45 (13 percent) from that range the past two games.
With those distance woes, the interior game became that much more important. However, both big men were stymied by quick whistles trying to repel Mercer’s gigantic start. Ayinde Taylor II (12 points, eight points) proved effective in his limited court time.
Knightdale seemed to gain a late first half and early second half boost from Chris Mitchell (nine points, six rebounds). He followed up a miss to beat the second-quarter buzzer, then began the third with an alley-oop dunk. The margin was whittled to seven, but East wake countered with five-consecutive to maintain its safe margin.
Sophomore R.J. Vick (11 points, four rebounds, three steals, three assists) provided a variety of pluses to the stat sheet, while draining the lone triple from the wing to puncture some Knight momentum.
Jeremiah Crudup (six points, six assists) and Curtis Ellerby (eight points, five rebounds) also contributed key moments. Jaxson Platts (three points), an energy-supplying Julius Cappelletti (two points, two steals, three rebounds) and Coryon Horton (two points) chipped in crucial spurts, as well.
The gap widened to 61-36 after three periods, leaving the Knights in chase mode down the stretch. It found its downtown delivery on back-to-back possessions in that final stanza, but the Warriors rebuffed every charge with quick transition reversals for easy buckets. They shot 23-of-53 (43 percent) overall and pulled 14 offensive rebounds against a taller rival roster.
Knightdale point guard Rodney Ellis (16 points, six assists, five rebounds, four steals) stayed outstanding throughout the contest, executing some acrobatic buckets to keep his crew on the verge of engineering a rally.
After years of disappointment (including a two-point, heart-breaking loss a season ago), East Wake was just ready to survive any minor storm.
East Wake will have a rematch with Knightdale at home Jan. 7 at 8 p.m.