Prep Basketball: Shayla, Bubbles return for local fans in all-star game
By Ryan Bisesi
SPENCER — The bubble almost burst.
Six-foot-three West Rowan center Shay Steele retrieved the ball in the paint and made her usual power move to the basket. The lanky Steele lumbered over defender and former Salisbury star Bubbles Phifer like a live oak over a family at a picnic. Phifer, not one to back down, stayed on her before retreating.
To the floor.
It was a rare serious sequence in a game for entertainment purposes only.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Phifer recalled. “My voice got light. I needed a sub right then. I was hurting in my stomach for about 10 minutes.”
Phifer took a breather for the moment but was part of the strong Salisbury lineage on hand at the Girls Senior All-Star Game at North Rowan. She went on to drop 15 points and show flashes of her County Player of the Year form with other Hornets sharing the stage.
Former N.C. State contributor Shayla Fields was there pouring in 10 points and current Hornet Vashti Usry hit four 3-pointers in the first half for the pink team, which boasted current Rowan County seniors.
Olivia Rankin and Ayanna Holmes, who helped SHS win three straight state 2A titles and now are both at Charlotte, coached the white team.
The action wasn’t as much a game as it was improv. The guard-heavy lineups shot a ton from the perimeter and kept the mood light with shoutouts inbetween plays and dancing during timeouts. The game supported breast cancer awareness with pink and white being the uniform colors.
“It was great for everybody to come in without attitudes and have fun,” Phifer said.
There were 13 3-pointers in the first half alone in a 71-48 win for the white team that boasted the county alums as well as a couple of former Livingstone players.
Phifer, a guard, learned she wasn’t the best post defender, but she’s retained her personality as well as the nickname she’s had since she was a child.
“It was just basically go out there and have a good time,” Phifer said. “We’re trying to help the seniors get better and prepare them for college.”
She’s hoping to see the floor this year at Johnson C. Smith after two years at Tallahassee Community College. Phifer sat out this year after transferring.
“I haven’t played for a year so I’m excited,” Phifer said. “I feel if I get my ballhandling skills on the right track, then I feel I have an opportunity.”
Fields, 26, is still chasing the dream after graduating from Salisbury in 2005. She’s played in Iceland and Turkey and even came back to Salisbury to help coach. Fields is playing with a semi-pro team out of Winston-Salem and keeping in top physical shape.
“I’m going to play as long as I can,” Fields said. “Right now I don’t feel like I’m going to stop anytime soon. I’m just waiting on that call.”
Fields hit a long 3-pointer from the “Cavaliers” insignia to put the white team up 37-28 at halftime.
“A lot of girls in the county have got a lot of talent,” Fields said. “We were able to put on a good show for the people.”
Pink cut the lead to 50-40 when white’s Teonika Webb hit a step-back 3 with a defender on her. Webb then collected a steal and layup on the following possession. Dennisa Rhames hit a 3 to cap a 8-0 spurt for white.
Steele, a Morehead State commit, scored 12 points.