Moir Classic: East Rowan boys 71, Salisbury 64, 2 OTs

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 29, 2006

By Mike London

Salisbury Post

With the score tied, East Rowan’s Spenser Davis stood near halfcourt, holding the ball for the the final 49 seconds of regulation.

Salisbury coach Jason Causby assumed a defensive stance in front of the Hornets’ bench, and SHS guard Ibn Ali assumed a similar one 10 feet away from Davis. Ali adjusted his jersey, tugged at his shorts, smiled and barked, “Bring it, Spenser, bring it.”

Davis, Ali and all their teammates brought it for 40 minutes on Friday — brought it through regulation and two overtime periods before the top-seeded Mustangs emerged with a 71-64 victory over the third-seeded Hornets.

“Ibn was talking all night to me, calling my name, but, hey, it’s all in the game,” Davis said. “He’s a great defensive player, and they weren’t helping him and leaving our shooters. They were going to see if I could make a few layups.”

Ali won the battle with Davis at the end of regulation, successfully road-blocking his penetration, but the night eventually belonged to Davis, a reluctant shooter who scored 15 points and emerged as the MVP of the Sam Moir Christmas Classic.

“It’s about time that he got something, got that sort of recognition,” East coach Greg McKenzie said.

Victorious East (10-1) broke a 31-year drought in the event after championship-game losses each of the past two seasons.

“Maybe it’s been 30-something years since East won because it takes a game like this to win this tournament,” Davis said. “Everybody did what they had to do.”

Justin Vanderford led East with 19 points. Kenan McKenzie had 13. Trey Holmes scored 11. Shawn Eagle had 10.

It was a game that seemingly had no end. East trailed 44-37 with six minutes left in regulation and fought back. Salisbury trailed 61-54 with 1:03 left in the first overtime but erased the deficit on a dramatic, pull-up 3-pointer from the left wing by Salisbury senior Doug Campbell that had people rolling in the aisles at Goodman Gym and shouting Bible verses.

“It was a shot that I just needed to step up and hit as a leader,” Campbell said. “I had been kinda cold before that.”

Salisbury never resembled a 6-5 team. The Hornets, who got 17 points from Campbell, 20 points and 14 boards from post man Joe Allen, 11 rebounds from Brandon Abel and 10 points from Ali, shot 60 percent in the first half while whipping East 2-to-1 on the glass.

The only reason East was down only 35-34 at the half was because it made only one turnover during the first 16 minutes.

“Salisbury showed everybody what kind of team they have tonight,” East coach Greg McKenzie said. “I felt helpless at times because they just kept coming back and coming back. At the end, we had kids cramping up on the free-throw line, and I’m sure Salisbury’s kids were exhausted too. It was just one of those nights, and you’re almost laughing because there just wasn’t any way to stop them.”

It was 52-52 at the end of regulation, after a tense second half that was mostly cat-and-mouse.

“I knew we’d play well and knew East would play well,” Causby said. “The thing that worries you with East is that you know that a run of 3s is coming at some point. But you expect it early, not in overtime when they’ve got tired legs.”

When McKenzie, Vanderford and Holmes hit 3s early in the first overtime, it looked over, but Campbell wouldn’t let the Hornets die, and Allen pointed at the crowd in triumph after the Hornets miraculously forced a second overtime.

Davis got loose for a layup off the tip to begin the second overtime, Vanderford hit four quick free throws, and this time, the weary Hornets couldn’t rally. Then Mustang fans started a celebration that had been on hold for three decades.

“I still feel we’re as good if not better than them,” Campbell said. “But East is a great team, and their experience got us in the end.”

salisbury (64) — Allen 20, Campbell 17, Ali 10, Rose 8, Phifer 5, Abel 4, Williams, White.

east rowan (71) — Vanderford 19, Davis 15, McKenzie 13, Holmes 11, Eagle 10, Wilson 3, Misenheimer, Wilhelm.

Salisbury 13 22 10 7 9 3 — 64

E. Rowan 16 18 9 9 9 10 — 71

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Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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