By David Shaw
LEXINGTON ó The melody has changed, but the song remains the same for Salisbury’s girls basketball team.
Playing once again without senior Kwameshia Hicks ó her season is officially over ó the Hornets launched their post-season march Wednesday with an 81-32 win over West Davidson in the CCC tournament semifinals.
“We just wanted to get this game out of the way so we could get ready for the championship,” forward De’Rya Wylie said at Lexington High School, where Salisbury (23-1) earned a berth in Friday’s final against East Davidson, a 58-54 winner against Ledford. “We’re hungry for it this year because we got knocked out by Ledford last year.”Following a clunky, square-wheeled start, the second-seeded Hornets played hermitically sealed defense against West (7-16) and surged to an easy victory. By the second quarter they had rolled up their sleeves, snapped open their brief cases and turned this into another productive day at the office.
“Yeah, but we looked a little sluggish in the beginning,” said first-year coach Dee Miller. “Defensive intensity, turnovers on the offensive end. There for a while I thought we were playing turnover-for-turnover.”
By game’s end SHS had forced 31 turnovers and committed 14. But it took a 17-0 run that bridged the first two quarters ó a spurt that transformed an 18-7 paper cut into a 35-7 hemorrhage ó to convince Miller & Co. they were on the right track.
“We knew we had given up too many easy points,” junior guard Shi-Heria Shipp said. “We didn’t want them scoring more than 10 points in any quarter. So we put pressure on the ball and played man-to-man. It forced them into a lot of turnovers and some easy buckets at the other end.”
Among the easiest came off a steal by the long-armed Shipp. She intercepted a soft West Davidson pass near the midcourt stripe and raced in for an uncontested layup, providing a 26-point Salisbury lead with 3:10 remaining in the first half.
“Salisbury creates those turnovers,” said West coach David Klinkoski. “They’ve got long arms and long legs and they disrupt what you’re trying to do. During that run we made a few bad decisions on cross-court passes. Against a team like them, you can’t do that and not expect them to get easy baskets.”
By halftime the Hornets led 40-14. They extended their gait with 12 unanswered points late in the third quarter to go ahead 58-20 and made it 68-22 when freshman Ashia Holmes reeled in an offensive rebound and hit a layup early in the fourth.
“It all changed in the second quarter,” Shipp said after contributing 14 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and four steals. “We knew we had to win this game, but we didn’t come out with the right mentality. We had to push ourselves a little more.”
Eventually, the Hornets turned the match into a noisy round of batting practice.
“I wouldn’t call it practice,” Wylie said. “We still had to keep our focus the whole game.”
Wylie paced Salisbury with 16 points. She added nine rebounds and six steals. Teammates Bubbles Phifer (13), Ayanna Holmes (13) and Ashia Holmes (12) also scored in double figures.
“They had a lot of girls who could hurt you,” said Klinkoski. “We tried playing a zone and they would kick it out and knock down 3-pointers. Then we’d switch to a man and they were athletic enough to drive past us. They just did it at both ends of the floor.”
NOTES: Shipp missed about four minutes of the second half after suffering a cramp in her right calf. … Hicks, who dislocated her left knee cap Feb. 8 against Ledford, averaged 14.5 points-per-game. She doesn’t intend to play collegiately but would like to attend Wake Forest or East Carolina.
Salisbury carries an 11-game winning streak into Friday’s championship game.
west davidson (32) ó Koontz 7, Owens 6, Livezey 6, Hairston 4, Redd 4, Elmore 3, Beverly 2.salisbury (81) ó Wylie 16, Shipp 14, B.Phifer 13, Ay.Holmes 13, As.Holmes 12, K.Phifer 9, Rice 4, Clinding.W. Davidson 7 7 8 10 ó 32
Salisbury 21 19 20 21 ó 81n
Contact David Shaw at email@example.com.