Moir Christmas Classic: Salisbury girls 57, Carson 47: Hornets in 10th straight Moir final
SALISBURY — Serious underdogs for the first time in a long time at Goodman Gym, Salisbury’s girls put it all together in a Moir Classic semifinal on Friday.
Brielle Blaire had 25 points and 11 rebounds and Patreece Lattimore and Daterria Connor played the games of their lives as the sixth-seeded Hornets beat No. 2 seed Carson 57-47.
“We beat a very good team — a team that had beaten us twice by double figures,” Salisbury coach Doug Faison said. “But it’s like the girls just told me in the locker room —they played together today for the first time all season.”
This tournament will mark the end of Faison’s brief tenure as head coach. His swan song will be tonight’s 6 p.m. title contest in which the Hornets, who have won 23 Moir games in a row, will shoot for their 10th straight championship.
“The girls are learning and they’re starting to get it, starting to understand our defense,” Faison said. “They’re going to go on to have a great season. I feel good about that and I have no doubt about that.”
Two days ago there were plenty of doubts about the Hornets, who came into the tournament with a 2-4 pre-Christmas record against Rowan teams, including 60-48 and 61-47 losses to Carson.
But the Hornets (6-4) led wire-to-wire to end Carson’s 10-game winning streak — from Ashley Blaire’s confident jumper for a 2-0 lead to Brielle Blaire’s free throws for the game’s final points.
Carson (10-2) began the game ice-cold, shooting 1-for-11 in a brutal first quarter to fall into a 14-4 hole from which it never escaped.
“Maybe were overly excited,” said senior Allison Blackwell who scored 19 points to push her career total to 988. “Our shots wouldn’t fall, and that awful start just killed us. It was an even game except for that first quarter.”
The key to Carson’s offensive struggles was Lattimore’s defense against Carson ballhandler/scorer Kelly Dulkoski.
Dulkoski would finish with 17 points, but she was limited to 2-for-7 shooting in the first half as the Hornets took control.
“Kelly is a very good player and their ringleader,” Lattimore said. “If you stop Kelly, you stop Carson. All the plays they run are picks for her and girls rolling off those picks.”
Carson made runs, including a push sparked by Katherine Barringer’s rebounding that pulled the Cougars within 18-12 late in the first half.
But Salisbury ended the half with huge, momentum-swinging buckets by Connor and Lattimore.
“Those pointed lifted us up at the half,” Lattimore said. “It felt awesome to go to halftime ahead by 10.”
Dulkoski led another Cason charge early in the second half that cut the deficit to 24-21, but Connor and Lattimore produced the game’s next six points, including a wicked block by Connor that led to a transition bucket by Lattimore.
“Patreece was playing great defense against Kelly and the rest of us just had to watch our men,” Connor said. “And the big floor here helped us spread out on offense, and we were executing well.”
Down 13 points after three quarters, Carson scored 24 in the fourth quarter to make it interesting. A Dulkoski 3 got the Cougars within 46-40, and a stickback by Blackwell made it 48-44 with 55 seconds left.
But that was as close as the Cougars got. Brielle Blaire made two free throws, and then Vashti Usry stepped up and made two. Then Lattimore grabbed the board when Dulkoski missed a 3, and her two free throws sealed it.
“Salisbury did a good job defensively of speeding us up, and we rushed shots and couldn’t finish inside,” Carson coach Brooke Misenheimer said. “We were prepared for what they wanted to do on offense, but we just didn’t box out, and that’s on us. It stinks not to be in the championship game.”
SHS overcame 0-for-10 3-point shooting with tenacity and hustle. The Hornets had 19 offensive rebounds.
“Lattimore’s defense was key and we played the best team defense we’ve played this season,” Faison said. “The girls weren’t going to give up today.”
SALISBURY (57) — B. Blaire 25, Lattimore 10, Connor 8, A. Blaire 8, Harris 4, Usry 2, Harmon, Caldwell.
CARSON (47) — Blackwell 19, Dulkoski 17, Barringer 7, Cole 2, Gray 2, Allen, Parks.
Salisbury 14 8 14 21 — 57
Carson 4 8 11 24 — 47