Prep Basketball: South Rowan boys 75, Salisbury 72

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2008

By Mike London
LANDIS ó Two Salisbury 3-point attempts danced off the rim in the final hectic seconds, and South Rowan hung on for a 75-72 opening-night victory over the taller Hornets.
“That was wild,” South coach John Davis said. “The first 3 I could see was a little short. The second one I thought was dead on, but the basketball gods were on our side.”So was guard Hunter Morrison, who used his quickness, his handle and his head to get the Hornets in foul trouble and score 25 points.
Steven Johnson was known only to family and teammates before Wednesday, but he’s now a household name. Johnson, who scored six points his junior season, has 22 as a senior. His 10 in the first quarter forced Salisbury into a catch-up mentality the rest of the way. Johnson even let out a decent, you-can’t stop-me scream after one 3-pointer.
“Everything that happened was just Hunter’s ability to drive and kick,” Johnson said. “He always takes away one defender. My man was leaving me, and I did what I was supposed to do. I took the ball to the basket, made shots.”
South’s Reid Shaver added 12 points and 10 boards.
Darien Rankin paced the Hornets with 26 points, 12 in a frantic fourth quarter. Brandon Abel chipped in with 16 points, but fouls had him on the bench at crunch time.
The Raiders outscored Salisbury 31-7 at the foul line, a disparity that offset the layups Rankin and Abel were ramming down their throats.
“We worked in practice on staying in front of Hunter, but sometimes the light comes on, the ball goes up, and guys revert to bad habits,” Salisbury coach Jason Causby said. “They shot too many free throws because we kept putting our hands on the dribbler. I guess we solidified Hunter’s spot on the all-county team the first night.”
Morrison, who was 14-for-16 from the line was an specially bad option to foul.
It was 12-12 early, but a Morrison floater beat the buzzer to give South a 22-16 lead after a quarter.
South, which essentially was playing five guards, had no one who could rise with the 6-foot-6 Abel, but he had four point-blank shots rattle off the rim in the second quarter. South survived a spectacular, four-point play by Hornet youngster Jahaan Hailey to build a 41-29 halftime lead.
Salisbury came out harder in the third quarter and a 13-point South lead was sliced to four. The Raiders led 53-47 heading to the fourth.
“Both teams were playing very hard, but I was disappointed in our defense,” Davis said. “We were parting like the Red Sea, letting them get to the basket way too easily.”
The Hornets caught up for the first time since the first quarter when Rankin knocked down a jumper to make it 61-61 with 3:47 left, but a soaring block by B.J. Grant on Rankin with 2:32 left gave South a little breathing room and a lot of momentum.
“It’s not like we just made one run at them,” Causby said. “I counted five.”
Back-to-back spinning shots by Salisbury’s Thaddeus Williams lifted the Hornets within 66-65 with 1:41 left, but the Raiders kept making free throws.
A pair by Morrison gave South a 74-69 lead with 16 seconds left. Hailey answered with a deep 3-pointer for the Hornets before Shaver split two free throws for a 75-72 lead and set the stage for Salisbury’s last possession.
“We picked it up a lot in the second half,” Rankin said. “We ran the court hard, kept coming at them, but those guys hit their free throws.”
Salisbury (72) ó Rankin 26, Abel 16, Hailey 10, Williams 6, Knox 6, Weant 4, Morris 2, Almeida 2, Jones, Lingard, Wilkins.
SOUTH ROWAN (75) ó Morrison 25, S. Johnson 22, Shaver 12, Houston 8, Grant 5, Davis 2, Corriher 1
Salisbury 16 13 18 25 ó 72
S. Rowan 22 19 12 22 ó 79