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Girls team: Last time for Miller time

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
Gary Miller, who played for coach Gilbert Sprinkle at East in the early 1970s, left Concord’s Rimer Gym with a small smile after East’s girls lost a tough game to the eventual state champion Spiders in the 3A state playoffs.
Sadness fought with pride for a few minutes, but pride prevailed. His daughter, Haley, sick as a dog, had played a heck of a game in her final game in an East uniform. He knew it and knew he’d never forget it.
It was the end of a happy trail for Miller, a regular at East doubleheaders to watch three children.
First, son, Justin, who scored 912 points (eighth all-time at East). He graduated in 2001.
Caleb, a 2003 grad, was next. He scored 351 points in two seasons.
Haley finished in between her brothers, with 458 varsity points. More important than the points, she finally got to play on a winning varsity basketball team, something Gary, Justin and Caleb didn’t get to do.
Like Justin, Haley makes all-county for the first time as a senior.
Haley left the all-county gathering at the Salisbury gym displaying the small smile that must run in the family.
“I finally made it, and it’s the way I wanted to go out senior year,” she said.
While the boys all-county team includes 10 first-timers, the girls team is filled with familiar faces. All eight girls who made the team last season and weren’t seniors, were repeat picks.
One of the five newcomers is a freshman ó West phenom Ayana Avery.
There’s also one sophomore ó Salisbury’s Bubbles Phifer, who enjoyed a breakout season and was the county’s best player.
The other three new faces belong to seniors. Besides Miller, there’s North’s JaQuanta Wilks, who came out of nowhere, and West’s Brooke Taylor, who has been a good player for a while.
There are four Hornets on the team, the first time a school has placed a quartet on the squad since Salisbury’s 2004 state champs.
Mackenzie White was the first Carson girl named all-county last season, but there are no Cougars this time. The highest-scoring Cougar ranked 18th in the county, but help is on the way.
Southeast’s seventh-graders just finished a 14-0 season.
The 2008 team:
Bubbles Phifer, Salisbury, So.Her given name is Shanequa, but “Bubbles” suited her upbeat personality perfectly.
Coach Dee Miller figures the 5-6 Phifer led the state in steals, and she combines blazing speed with a pure 3-point shot. She was 8-for-16 on 3s in two regional games.
Shi-Heria Shipp, Salisbury, Jr.Long, talented guard can handle, drive and defend and impressed college scouts.
The 5-10 repeat pick averaged 14.0 points a game and scored in the 20s six times.
She was runner-up for CCC Player of the Year and has 878 career points, ninth all-time at Salisbury.
Ayana Avery, West, Fr.A candidate to lead the county in scoring the next three seasons.
Avery is only 5-5, but she rains 3s against zones and is quick enough to create shots for herself. Already makes floaters and runners from every possible angle.
Averaged 13.3 points for the season and 17.7 in West’s last 11 games. Had outings of 29 and 35 points ó just three shy of the school record ó in the stretch run.
Ashley Collins, East, Jr.Collins averaged 11.2 points, but her total game is what sets her apart. She can score two points and still have a positive impact. Not many players can do that.
A tenacious rebounder for someone listed at 5-6 and a solid ballhandler and passer, she could put up a few triple-doubles next season.
A repeater on all-county, she has scored 856 points in three seasons.
Taylor May, South, Jr.A repeat pick, May is 6 feet tall, strong, leaps well and owns a solid medium-range jumper and above-average ballhandling skills.
She averaged 11.2 points in a roller-coaster season that included two 27-point games and a 25-point game.
A shoulder injury hurt her shooting percentages early, but she’s talented enough to have a monster senior year.
Kat Van Wieren, South, Sr.Another repeat pick, Van Wieren was a lock for a double-double every Tuesday and Friday. She averaged 13.0 points and finished 12th on South’s all-time scoring list with 818 points.
Van Wieren has average jumping ability and quickness and is a bit shorter than her listed 6-0, but she always outworked everyone on the floor for 32 minutes.
De’Rya Wylie, Salisbury, Jr.A repeat pick, Wylie was a fierce rebounder and rugged post defender despite standing 5-8.
Had 13 rebounds in a regional victory over East Rutherford in which she took over the paint.
She averaged 10.3 points and probably had as many boards as points.
Kwameshia Hicks, Salis., Sr.A repeat pick. A knee injury reduced her season to 20 games, but she was one of the county’s top scorers. She averaged 14.5 points, with a lot of it coming on 3s. Her zone-busting abilities would have helped the Hornets a great deal in the regional.
The 5-6 Hicks scored 866 points, 10th all-time at Salisbury. Had she stayed healthy, she may have joined the 1,000-point club.
Katelynne Poole, East, Jr.A repeat pick and a great outside shooter, she led East in scoring with 11.5 points a game and scored in double digits 18 times, including 20 against North Iredell.
The 5-8 guard has 641 career points and ranks 24th on East’s all-time list.
Brooke Taylor, West, Sr.West needed her to score and she did, averaging 12.2 per game and scoring in double figures 19 times.
A really good athlete who also plays tennis and softball, Taylor finished 20th on West’s all-time scoring list with 710 points.
Haley Miller, East, Sr.Miller’s 8.4 points a game don’t tell the whole story.
She was super defensively, rebounded well and made five highlight-film shots in one night to bury Lake Norman in the NPC tournament.
Peyton Sawyer, West, Jr.A repeat pick, her speed with the ball makes her a factor. The 5-5 blur is a one-girl press-break, so quick she blows past traps and creates layups for teammates.
Averaged 8.8 points a game and had 19 in West’s playoff loss to eventual state champ Concord.
JaQuanta Wilks, North, Sr.A long 5-9 with a nice 15-foot jumper, Wilks nearly doubled her scoring from her junior year. She averaged 10.0 points and was in double figures in six of North’s last eight games.
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Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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