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Moir Classic: The notebook

From staff reports

The Moir Christmas Classic notebook …

Nadiyda Thelwell was supposed to be North Rowan’s second- or third-leading scorer this season. She was supposed to be another offensive option to complement Shemieka Brown in the backcourt.

Thelwell’s senior season hasn’t exactly gone as planned.

Arrested in relation to an armed robbery before the season began, Thelwell made her season debut Thursday in North’s 57-48 victory against Davie County.

North coach Mike White said there isn’t exactly a protocol for this type of situation, so he checked with Que Tucker, who’s in charge of sports regulations for the NCHSAA. After going through everything with Tucker, White discovered that Thelwell, who had since been released on bond, is still eligible to play. Her case has not yet been finished.

White also discussed the issue with North principal Rodney Bass, and the decision was left to White.

“First of all, I prayed about it,” White said. “I wanted to pray about it, get confirmation (that Thelwell could play), then bring it to the girls. It was a unanimous vote. We all know and love her.

“But I had to make sure I was doing the right thing for her as a person. Not as a player, but as a person. A second chance — everybody deserves one.”

Another part of the decision, White said, was that Thelwell continued to be a part of the team throughout the process. She attended games even though she wasn’t in uniform. Once she started practicing again, she did “extra work.”

In her season debut, Thelwell scored four points and had two steals in 15 minutes of play.

“She’s still gonna do extra work,” White said. “But we all make mistakes. God gives us second chances all the time, so we just sat her out for a while, made her work hard, made her earn things back. You gotta look after family.

“We’re just glad to have her back.”

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HERE WE GO AGAIN: North and Salisbury will meet in the girls final for the third straight season tonight at 6.

Salisbury won the past two meetings 51-46 and 43-39. The Hornets won the title three years ago, as well, when they defeated West Rowan 61-60.

White said this season’s game should be different.

“It’s different now because we’ve got a different cast,” White said. “We don’t have Sophilia Hipps, and a lot of people thought we were a one-person team, a two-people team. Now we’ve got three, four, five girls that can go out there and do it, girls coming off the bench.

“They’re hungry. We’re looking at it as just another game, but it’s more of a sour taste in our mouth from the last two, three games we’ve played.”

If North, the No. 1 seed, hopes to defeat second-seeded Salisbury, it will likely need plenty of production from post players Sierra Ingram, Shavonna Casey and DaQuondra Cuthbertson. All three are 6-foot or taller, while Salisbury doesn’t have any 6-footers but does have more guard depth than the Cavs.

“We haven’t seen a team that’s quite as fast and athletic as they are,” White said. “With that big guard, Shi Heria (Shipp), we’re gonna have to limit her. Kwameshia (Hicks) is a great shooter. They’re a great team.”

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TOO MUCH OOOMPH: Maybe North Rowan’s girls just aren’t used to playing in gyms with shot clocks.

On two different occasions Thursday, the Cavaliers fired shots over the entire backboard. Cuthbertson shot one over the backboard and off the shot clock from 8 feet away late in the second quarter.

Late in the next quarter, JaQuanta Wilks had a shot from about the same distance at the other end of the court. Her shot also went over the entire backboard and off the shot clock.

*

COMING ATTRACTION: West Rowan sophomore Peyton Sawyer, a self-proclaimed defensive specialist, continues to impress. She had eight points and three steals in Thursday’s semifinal loss to Salisbury.

“The fans have to see what Peyton Sawyer can do,” said coach Bob Blake. “She’s just been kind of shy and afraid to take it to the rim on people. But she’s a good player.”

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TAKE IT OFF: Brooke Taylor, the West Rowan sniper who has worn a soft brace on her left wrist since suffering a bubble fracture on Dec. 5, abruptly abandoned the device after the first quarter. She opened the second by driving for a pair of layups and converting a free throw, netting five of her team-high nine points.

“Somebody told me she took it off but I didn’t even notice,” said Blake. “She was just kinda frustrated with it. She’s instant-offense when she’s on. I hope she’s getting better because we need her scoring.”

*

BLUE TEAM BLUES: West boys coach Mike Gurley has been using five reserves as a unit, both to give the starters a break and to use his whole roster, which builds morale and chemistry.

But the Blue struggled some in West’s 61-59 semifnal loss to Salisbury.

West led 21-13 in the second quarter after K.P. Park’s sensational, no-look feed to Chris Smith, but the Hornets charged back against the Blue team and were within 23-21 before Gurley had all his starters back on the floor.

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AWESOME EFFORT: West sophomore K.J. Sherrill had a terrific outing against Salisbury, battling for 17 points and grabbing 10 of his 12 rebounds on the offensive end.

“I thought K.J. gave us everything,” Gurley said. “He’s the guy that kept us in that basketball game.”

*

ILLEGAL TENDER: There aren’t many goal-tending calls in high school games, but referees correctly made one when Salisbury’s 6-foot-8 Nick White swatted away a layup by West’s K.J. Parks. That shot put the Falcons ahead 54-53 with 3:33 remaining.

*

HOW GOOD WAS IT? The score was tied nine times in the West-Salisbury boys semifinal and the lead changed hands 14 times.

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COACHSPEAK: Salisbury coach Jason Causby talked often about his team getting better through losses to teams such as Lexington and Concord, but no one paid much attention because the Hornets entered the tournament with three straight setbacks.

But the Hornets proved Thursday they have gotten better.

“We had a tough stretch, but I thought those games helped us stay the course tonight,” Causby said. “I don’t think we panicked or got down mentally tonight when things didn’t go right.”

*

0-FER: As super a player as he is, West’s Jamel Carpenter had an off-shooting night against the Hornets. He was 0-for-7 from 3-point range and was the primary culprit in the Falcons’ 2-for-16 showing from long range.

Carpenter also missed two ahead-of-the-pack dunks that he’d like to have back.

*

CONTRASTS: The Moir semifinals on Thursday were in direct contrast, with Salisbury and West flying around the ceiling, but combining for 3-for-22 3-point shooting in the early semifinal.

In the late semifinal, East Rowan and Davie County combined for one blocked shot, no dunks, with the action taking place at the 3-point line instead of in the paint. The Mustangs and War Eagles combined to hoist 48 3-pointers and made 18.

Tonight’s championship game will obviously match two teams with completely opposing styles and strengths.

Salisbury’s game is height and athleticism. East’s game is guard play and outside shooting.

“It will come down to who can play to their strengths best,” East coach Greg McKenzie said.

In other words, can Salisbury win by hammering the ball inside to Joe Allen, Nick White, Brandon Abel and Zac Rose or can East win by creating open 3s and knocking them down.

East beat Salisbury 53-39 earlier this season, a game in which East’s Shawn Eagle scored 22 points.

But Salisbury broke a five-game losing streak to West last night and has a reasonable chance to break a five-game losing streak to East tonight if it plays with the same sort of intensity.

*

Mike London, David Shaw and Nick Bowton contributed to the notebook.

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