Tenacious Wylie sparks Hornets

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 6, 2008

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
WINSTON-SALEM ó East Rutherford post players had more inches, more pounds and longer reaches, but Salisbury junior De’Rya Wylie still got every rebound.
The 5-foot-8 ball of bounce, muscle and energy was the key ingredient as Salisbury hammered East Rutherford 46-32 on Thursday in a 2A Western Regional semifinal.
Salisbury outrebounded a much a larger team 40-30. Wylie had seven offensive boards that were strictly desire.
“When I got my first two rebounds against those girls, I told myself, ‘Hey, I can hang with them,’ ” Wylie said. “I did what I always do ó box out and go after the ball.”
Wylie, who finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, had help. Sophomore Bubbles Phifer hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points. Junior Shi-Heria Shipp shook off a rough first half and dominated after halftime. She had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Salisbury (28-1) earned its fourth meeting with CCC rival East Davidson, a 63-55 victor over Mitchell County. They’ll play in the regional final at Winston-Salem’s Joel Annex at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles (26-4) handed the Hornets their only loss, but Salisbury has avenged that setback twice, including a double-overtime victory in the CCC tournament championship game.
Salisbury endured a miserable shooting night ó 26.9 percent from the field ó but it also made East Rutherford (25-5) struggle for every point.
The Hornets played a tight zone, and East Rutherford shot 2-for-22 on 3s. Most were rainbow bricks with no chance. Wylie, Shipp, and the Holmes twins, Ashia and Ayanna, eagerly grabbed the misses.
The Cavaliers didn’t make a shot outside the paint until the scoreboard at Atkins High said there were barely three minutes left. By then, Salisbury fans were celebrating a relatively routine victory.
“That was our hope, that East Rutherford wouldn’t shoot the ball well and we would do what we did defensively,” Salisbury coach Dee Miller said. “The plan was not to get beat on layups.”
East Rutherford coach Larry Ross knows the Hornets well and expected tenacious man-to-man defense.
Instead he got zone.
“When they dropped back in that zone and packed it in, I was surprised, but I felt OK,” he said. “Normally, we shoot the 3-ball well, but we had one of those nights. We’re young. It was the first time on the big stage for a lot of our girls.”
Salisbury trailed 4-2, but Phifer hit back-to-back 3s. Then Wylie caught a sweet pass from Ashia Holmes and converted a three-point play on the baseline for an 11-4 lead. Salisbury didn’t look back.The second quarter was an offensive nightmare, but Salisbury took a 20-13 lead to the break after Wylie produced a powerful stickback four seconds before the horn.
“Neither team shot well, so it really came down to who could get those second and third shots,” Ross said. “Because of Wylie, it was Salisbury that got them. She was ripping rebounds away from us, and our girls couldn’t match her intensity. She was just tougher than we were.”
Wylie’s teammates were equally impressed with her 32-minute effort.
“To be small as she is, she’s amazing,” Bubbles Phifer said. “But she bangs. She just does what she’s gonna do.”
Ross reminded his team that his girls successfully erased a 31-17 halftime deficit when they played the Hornets three years ago, but Salisbury came out and played its best ball in the third quarter.
The Hornets answered after the Cavaliers got within 20-15. Wylie scored inside and made a free throw, Nene Phifer took a charge, and Bubbles Phifer hit a 3-pointer and scored on a break. It was an 8-0 blitz for a 28-15 lead, and East Rutherford reeled.Shipp took control from that point, taking the ball to the rim hard and drawing fouls instead of settling for jumpers.
“My shots weren’t falling at all in the first half,” she said. “When that happens, you’re supposed to drive to the basket. That’s what I tried to do.”
This is Salisbury’s sixth straight regional appearance and Shipp’s third, but she was more nervous this time than before. More on her shoulders. More teammates depending on her to lead as well as score, defend and handle the ball.
Shipp’s final stat-line was 3-for-15 from the field, but she was 5-for-6 on free throws in the second half as Salisbury built a secure lead. Most importantly, she was charged with only two turnovers while playing all 32 minutes. Her shoulder went numb briefly when an East Rutherford girl fell on her after she dived after a loose ball, but she stayed in there.
“The point guard should be a leader,” Shipp said. “Just had to step up for the team.”
Salisbury played tough, intelligent defense without whistles. The Hornets were called for only six fouls, and East Rutherford made only four free throws.
“We didn’t shoot well, but as long as we play defense we’re going to be OK,” Miller said. “We’re not the tallest team, but we worked hard and we boxed out.”
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.