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All-County: Bubbles is top girl

By Nick Bowton
Salisbury Post
Bubbles Phifer didn’t expect to be named Rowan County Player of the Year, so when she heard the news Wednesday morning that she indeed was voted as the top girls basketball player in the county, her first response was, “Huh? Player of the year?”
Maybe Phifer was shocked because she was selected from a team full of all-county players. Three of her Salisbury teammates made all-county.
Or maybe it’s because Phifer’s only a sophomore. Since the honor was first handed out in 1971, only three other sophomores had earned it ó Tracy Connor (South Rowan) in 1990, Hillary Hampton (West Rowan) in 2002 and Shayla Fields (Salisbury) in 2003.
Despite her state of shock, it’s hard to argue against Phifer as the choice this season. She averaged a county-leading 14.8 points per game, maintained a high level of play when her teammates struggled in the Western Regional and gave opponents fits with her quickness all season.
“This year I have more confidence than what I had last year,” said Phifer, who averaged 5.6 points as a freshman coming off the bench. “When I was coming in last year, I was kind of nervous because everybody was expecting me to do good. It just put a lot of pressure on me.
“But once the season was about to start this year, I was just like, ‘I’m ready. I didn’t put in all the effort I had last year, so I’m just gonna put it all in this year.’ ”
Her coach sure appreciated the effort.
First-year Salisbury coach Dee Miller had the most talent in the county, but she said Phifer emerged as one of the team’s leaders.
“She loves the game,” Miller said. “Some people play just to be on a team. Some kids come in and just play because it’s something for them to do. This kid loves the game.
“And she plays it like she loves it. It’s all-out on every possession.”
As talented as Phifer is, Miller said one of her biggest assets is her coachability.
Phifer isn’t the type of player to do things her way because she knows she’s good. Miller said Wednesday that Phifer will admit she has room for improvement, and Phifer then offered a statement like this:
“People were telling me my defense wasn’t that great and my shooting wasn’t great coming in. Somebody was like, ‘You need to switch your shot up.’ So that’s what I did: I switched it up. They should have more experience than I have in basketball.
“I listen to people that I know can make me better.”
Phifer did get better from her freshman to sophomore seasons, and when Salisbury faced adversity this past season, she got better again.
All-county teammate Kwameshia Hicks led the Hornets in scoring when she suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the regular season against Ledford. Shipp and Phifer had to handle most of the scoring load thereafter.
Phifer scored a career-high 27 points in a sectional semifinal victory against Ashe County. Then, with Shipp and the rest of the Hornets struggling in the Western Regional, Phifer averaged 16.0 points in Salisbury’s final two games.
Now she’s got two more seasons to improve even more.
“It’s gonna be a little scary going against her for two more years,” North Rowan coach Mike White said. “I might have to retire. I’ve seen sometimes she just goes around, rips the ball from the other player with ease, she’s gone, and you’re not gonna catch her. She’s a double threat.
“Defense, she can relocate quicker to a shooter than anybody else can. And she’s gonna always stay up in you to make you so nervous, you end up turning it over either by giving it to her or throwing it away. She’s tough.”

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

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