The Cleveland Rams basketball team opened conference play on Friday, January 11 against the Warriors from East Wake. Cleveland technically already beat a team in their conference when they played West Johnston in the John Jacobs Invitational tournament, but that game does not count as a conference match-up. The Rams came into the game against East Wake with confidence after holding their own against a very good Union Pines team on Tuesday. East Wake was coming off a statement win on the road against Harnett Central.
The first quarter of the game was frenetic and very low scoring. The first three minutes of the game were completely scoreless with both teams going 0-4 from the field. The scoreless tie was broken when the Rams’ Dawson Smith hit a three from the corner. Both teams got into early foul trouble with the Rams being called for four walks and Dawson Smith drawing three charges in one quarter. East Wake was up 6-5 at the end of the first.
The Rams scoring improved tremendously in the second quarter, and they still held East Wake to under 10 points. Joi Williams came off the bench and did his job to near perfection. Williams lead the team in rebounds with 12 for the game. Scoring in the second quarter was dominated by the duo of Dawson Smith and Hamilton Harrison. However, the biggest story of the game was the third quarter.
I do not know what coach Melton told his East Wake team, but it definitely worked. The Warriors came out of the halftime break and went off with 22 points in the third quarter. The main problem for the Rams was lack of rebounding coming out of halftime. Cleveland was out rebounded 17-4 in just the third quarter alone. Jeremiah Crudup for East Wake scored 10 of their 22 points in the quarter. Cleveland trailed by nine points going into the final quarter of the night.
Cleveland put up a good fight to try to climb back in the fourth quarter, but lack of second chance points and foul trouble towards the end sealed the Rams’ fate in the end. Cleveland drops their conference opener and falls to 6-6 on the season. East Wake improved their record to 9-4 going into a tough road matchup at Clayton on January 18. The Rams will continue their campaign in a non-conference matchup when they travel to Southern Nash on January 16.