Moir Classic: Nick Bowton column: Salisbury success should continue

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 29, 2006

Try a word-association test with “Salisbury girls basketball,” and the first response you’ll get is “Shayla Fields.”

The next one’s probably “success.”

Fields isn’t around any more. She graduated in 2005 and plays at North Carolina State.

The success, though? That hasn’t gone anywhere. It probably won’t for a while, either.

Salisbury won its fourth straight Sam Moir Christmas Classic on Friday. That means for the fourth straight season, it’s been crowned king of Rowan County.

Four in a row is impressive, but let’s be real. This streak should reach at least six, if not seven or eight or more.

The program once known just for Fields now has a ton of talent. Young talent.

Just look at Salisbury’s roster.

Only Kayley Gallagher and Meredith Wingerson will graduate. Neither one starts.

Beyond that, the Hornets have a pair of juniors in leading scorer Kwameshia Hicks and post player Shanae Knox. They have six sophomores, all of them regular contributors and two of them — point guard Shi Heria Shipp and forward De’Rya Wylie — among the team’s five best players.

Then there’s Bubbles Phifer, the only freshman on the varsity team but perhaps the most talented player on the roster.

No offense to North and West — two teams typically among the best in the county — and nothing against South, East and Carson, but Salisbury, by far, has the most talent in this area.

“I told them this week, top to bottom you’re a better team than anybody else in this tournament,” Salisbury coach Jennifer Shoaf said. “Whether you come out and show that, I don’t know.”

There’s the catch, the only reason Salisbury shouldn’t win at least two more Moir titles and continue to dominate county competition. The Hornets will have to guard against a letdown every game because every team will see Salisbury as big, bad Salisbury. It’s been that way for a few years already.

Shoaf pounds that point into her players’ heads’ regularly. It’s not hard for her to preach being humble because she went 40-101 in her first six seasons with the Hornets.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” Shoaf said. “That’s gonna be the challenge for these kids. Yeah, everybody says, ‘Oh, they’re loaded, they should win this thing the next couple years.’ On paper, yeah, we probably should. But if these kids don’t continue to work on what weaknesses they have, other people are gonna give us a challenge.

“It’s OK to be the favorite, but you gotta go out and perform.”

Of course, you have to go out and perform. But it helps to have the talent Salisbury does. Players come to Salisbury expecting to win state titles. They hear all about Salisbury and state titles (2004) and state runner-up finishes (2006) and want to join the fun.

“There’s so much high expectations, you got a lot of pressure on you because you don’t wanna be the team that didn’t accomplish its goals,” Hicks said. “Since Salisbury’s got so much publicity, it makes people wanna participate and get some shine.”

Next season, for instance, the Hornets are expected to have a pair of freshmen who supposedly could start right now. Ayanna and Ashia Holmes play at Southeast Middle School, but their family’s in the process of moving.

Phifer was already supposed to the be the greatest player since Fields. Now there’s two more on the way.

Shoaf said she almost has too much talent.

“Everybody wants to play for us right now,” she said. “That’s flattering. At the same time, it’s kind of hard. When you start getting a whole lot of talent, then you gotta start thinking how you’re gonna keep everybody happy. Every guard I have comes back next year. My starting post players are back. To crack into this lineup and crack into this rotation, you better be pretty good.”

Don’t spend too long pitying Shoaf. Most coaches would love to have her problem.

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Contact Nick Bowton at 704-797-4256 or nbowton@salisburypost.com.

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