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Salisbury girls win

By David Shaw
Salisbury Post
The Salisbury girls basketball team doesn’t need a calendar to know what time of year it is.
Right now is when they start keeping score in the 2A state playoffs ó and the Hornets looked more than ready in Monday’s 86-24 first-round victory over visiting West Stanly.
“Everyone knows it’s crunch time,” sophomore Bubbles Phifer said after Salisbury (25-1) earned a second-round match at home against Ashe County on Wednesday night. “If you lose, you’re out. If you don’t come to play every night from here on, you could be gone. There are no guarantees.”
If there was any concern about Salisbury’s state-of-readiness, it was erased in the first two minutes. The Hornets ó who won a double-overtime game last Friday and spent the weekend refueling ó attacked with swarming defense, forced several quick turnovers and jumped to a 13-2 lead on junior Shi-Heria Shipp’s layup.
“The key was to come out and stop them defensively,” said Shipp, who contributed 17 points and 12 rebounds. “We forced them into a lot of turnovers so we could get easy baskets.”
There were many of those, especially during a 19-0 Salisbury run that bridged the first and second quarters. Nene Phifer had a couple of runaway layups, Shipp nailed a 3-pointer from the right side and reserve forward Jasmine Clinding scored a basket that made it 47-10 with 2:40 remaining in the first half.
“They played too athletic, too quick for us,” losing coach Larry Honeycutt said after West Stanly closed up shop with a 14-13 record. “Defensively, we couldn’t handle their pressure and couldn’t get back in time. And offensively, when we did get shots they were all rushed.”
Salisbury forced 30 turnovers while committing only eight. Salisbury coach Dee Miller rotated nine players in and out of her lineup, keeping fresh legs on the court at all times.
“This was important,” she said. “There was so much at stake. You win and you move on. We had to come out focused and get them from the get-go.”
Salisbury kept its foot on the accelerator in the second half. There were back-to-back baskets by freshman Ashia Holmes, who matched her season-high with 12 points. Then teammate Kia Rice hit a 3-ball and Bubbles Phifer turned a backcourt steal and a fastbreak layup, helping the Hornets build a 51-point lead after three quarters.
“Defense. That’s all I can say about that,” Phifer said after giving the adding machine a workout. She recorded a triple-double ó 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists ó which fit nicely alongside her eight steals.
“That’s how you win in the playoffs.”
It was a relentless defense that yielded only nine field goals. West Stanly became the 12th Salisbury opponent held to fewer than 30 points.
“We knew it was coming,” Honeycutt shrugged afterward. “But just because you know it’s coming doesn’t mean you can handle it.”
Now here’s the good news for Hornets’ fans: Salisbury and Miller aren’t about to change any time soon. Defense still comes first ó and second and third ó on Lincolnton Road. And the focus never seems to wander too far off course.
“We’re still taking it one game at a time,” Miller said. “That’s what’s been working for us all year long. There’s no need to prepare for anybody else because you’ve always got to get past that next game.”
n
NOTES: Ashe County (22-4) advanced with a 47-39 first-round win against North Lincoln. … Shipp had eight offensive rebounds. … Bubbles Phifer had 18 points in the first half, when she outscored the Colts all by herself.
west stanly (24) ó Efird 7, McSwain 6, Coble 3, Miller 3, Page 3, King 2.
salisbury (86) ó B.Phifer 24, Shipp 17, Wylie 13, As.Holmes 12, Rice 9, N.Phifer 8, Clinding 2, Miller 1, Ay. Holmes.
W. Stanly 10 4 8 2 ó 24
Salisbury 30 23 20 13 ó 86
n
Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisburypost.com.

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