Easter, Knights put Panthers away

Ledford's Kevin Pressley (right) sails to the basket for a lay-up with North Davidson's Jordan Santana trailing and trying to block the shot during their game Friday night. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

WALLBURG | Many of the key combatants weren’t around for the fourth quarter of North Davidson’s nonconference game at Ledford on Friday night.

They missed quite a show by Brandon Easter.

Easter scored 14 of his game-high 27 points in the final eight minutes to help the Knights turn a nailbiter into a yawner, winning 54-41.

But it was much closer than the final score would indicate. North only led 32-31 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter when coach Sammy Staten was slapped with his second technical foul, sending him to the locker room. But the Knights poured it on in the fourth quarter, downing a Ledford team that was missing three starters and playing the final four minutes without explosive scorer Brandon Rothrock, who fouled out.

Staten didn’t sugar coat anything about his team’s performance, which included missing a bushel of layups and getting beaten on the boards despite a monumental size advantage in the paint. “We didn’t play well at all for three quarters,” Staten said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the fourth.

“But, from what I hear, we played better in the fourth quarter.”

Ledford coach Jonathan Leonard was proud of the fact his short-handed bunch hung around for three quarters, even without point guard Matt Walker and post players Skylar McGee and Anthony Hughes — who broke his foot in practice Thursday and will miss the rest of the season. “You hold a team to 21 points in the first half, you can’t ask for much more than that,” Leonard said. “For three-and-a-half quarters, we were in it.

“We’ve had a rough week.”

Despite holding North to 21 in the first half, Ledford could only manage 18 points itself to trail by three at the break. North stretched its lead to 32-28 late in the third, but Staten was slapped with two technical fouls in a span of 40 seconds, and the Panthers tied things up at 32-all with 38 seconds left in the third.

But Cameron Easter finished the frame with a pair of free throws, and his big brother took over in the final eight minutes. He buried a 3 from the corner to push the Knights ahead 40-35, then made it 44-37 with a three-point play midway through the fourth. Rothrock was called for an offensive foul with 4:28 left to play, and Ledford only managed two more buckets the rest of the way.

Ashton Phillips tacked on eight points for the Knights, who improved to 2-1. Kevin Pressley added eight points for the Panthers, who dipped to 3-2.

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or jason.queen@the-dispatch.com.