Moir Christmas Classic: Salisbury girls 51, East Rowan 47
SALISBURY — For the Salisbury girls, the streak is alive.
For East Rowan, an unkind roll on a point blank shot halted a valiant comeback in the waning seconds of their opening game in the Sam Moir Christmas Classic on Thursday,
Salisbury held off a charge by East down the stretch to win 51-47 and run their winning streak in the Moir event to 22 straight over nine years of championships.
“Too close, too close,” said Hornet Coach Doug Faison. “But we came out with the win and that’s the important thing.”
Although they led wire-to- wire, mostly by double figures, the sixth-seeded Hornets (5-4) had to rely on a bit of gravitational luck in the end to hold off the third seed Mustangs (7-4).
Trailing 43-33 early in the final quarter, East went on a 10-2 run behind the inside play of forward Karleigh Wike to cut the margin to two. It was still a two-point game with 1:02 left to play when Wike hit a short jumper to make the score 47-45. Two free throws by Daterria Connor expanded the Salisbury lead to 49-45 to set the stage for some final drama.
Kelli Fisher hit a lay-up for East at 15 seconds to cut the score to 49-47, then on the ensuing inbounds play, Wike got the interception and had a point blank shot from just left of the basket to tie it.
The ball literally wobbled on the back edge of the rim for several second before falling away. Hornet star forward Brielle Blaire snatched the rebound and was fouled with four seconds left. Her two free throws gave her 29 points for the night and secured the win for the Hornets.
“That ball just stayed up there for what seemed like 10 seconds on the rim but just wouldn’t fall our way,” East coach Danielle Porter said. “We came back but you cannot wait until after halftime against a quality team like Salisbury to make your run.”
Despite giving up most of their big lead down the stretch, Salisbury did come through by hitting 6-of-6 of free throws in the final minute.
“We practice a lot on our free throws and it really did pay off tonight, “stated Blaire. who hit four of them herself. In addition to her game high 29 points, she also had eight rebounds, two blocks and a couple of steals.
Blaire scored 14 of her points in a solid first half that saw Salisbury expand a small lead to 10 points in the second quarter.
A pair of 3-point bombs plus two foul shots by Blaire in the second quarter enabled the Hornets to lead 30-20 at intermission.
The Mustangs were able to start turning the tide in the second half by feeding the ball inside to Wike and Fisher.
“We have got to get our guards to do a better job of reading the defense and getting the ball inside, “Porter stated. “That is something we really need to improve on.”
The East comeback was also hampered by a significant number of unforced errors and errant passes, especially in the second half. For the game, the Mustangs commited 22 turnovers to just nine for the Hornets.
The Mustangs did outrebound Salisbury 38-28, led by Wike, who had 12 to go with her team high 26 points. Guard Lauren Thomas added 10 points for East, mostly in the first period when she scored seven.
For Salisbury, Blaire was the only Hornet in double figures but she feels the team is really play well right now.
“We are finally playing together as a team now, “she said. “ And I am very excited and proud of that.”
As for the “streak” that has Salisbury notching nine titles in a row and 22 straight wins, neither Blaire nor her coach acknowledged that they spend a lot of time thinking about it.
“I was around when it started,” Faison noted, “But we don’t talk about that kind of thing. We just want to get through the next game.”
He did acknowledge that he is not ready for their remarkable success in the annual Moir tournament to end however.
As for the junior forward Blaire, who was about 8 when the streak started, it is not a major focus.
“We just take it one game at a time and try to improve in every game,” she said.
SALISBURY (51) — B. Blaire 29, Connor 6, A. Blaire 6, Usry 4, Caldwell 3, Lattimore 3, Harris, Harmon, Gloster.
EAST ROWAN (47) — Wike 26, Thomas 10, Fsher 7, Lowe, 2, Ajayi 2, Sides, Poole,
Salisbury 16 14 10 11 — 51
E. Rowan 11 9 11 16 — 47