Moir Christmas Classic: Salisbury boys 66, North Rowan 39
By Mike London
There were long stretches in which Salisbury seemed to miss every shot and North Rowan seemed to grab every rebound, but the Hornets still breezed to a 66-39 victory in the first round of the Sam Moir Christmas Classic on Saturday night.
Thaddeus Williams and Darien Rankin scored 14 points each for Salisbury. Javon Hargrave powered for 10 points and 11 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Cavaliers.
Second-seeded Salisbury, the defending champion, displayed its C-minus game, not it’s A-plus game, but it was more than enough to advance to a semifinal matchup with third-seeded South Rowan on Monday.
“I thought we got away with one,” Salisbury coach Jason Causby said. “On another night, we don’t win playing like this. We were fortunate our intensity in the second half got us a win.”
The Hornets will have incentive to play more smoothly against South, the only team to beat Salisbury (9-1).
The Hornets have won nine straight since losing at South (6-4) on opening night. Salisbury is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season when it dropped its opener, then put together a 26-game winning streak.
Salisbury led 15-11 after a quarter despite shooting 5-for-15 ó including an accidentally banked 3-pointer by Williams ó and being battered and bruised on the boards by Hargrave.
But Salisbury’s defense squeezed the Cavaliers hard. North scored only four points in the second quarter, and the Hornets led 25-15 at halftime.
“Defensively is where Salisbury was pretty good,” North coach Kelly Everhart said. “They were physical and athletic and they made us work just to get the ball up the court. The defense by their guards on our guards and wings allowed them to control the game.”
Causby’s halftime talk was mostly about Hargrave’s stickbacks.
“The first half we didn’t play the way we can play,” said Salisbury defensive stopper Dominique Phillips. “We didn’t hustle, we didn’t box out, and Coach said we were letting just one man beat us on the boards.”
Salisbury’s 6-foot-7 Alex Weant paused briefly to lift North’s Lamonte Bell off the floor after they crashed together in the first minute of the second half, but that was the last time the Hornets were helpful.
Weant followed his neighborly gesture with a layup, then drew a charge ó two simple plays that ignited an 11-2 run by the Hornets. That burst turned a 27-16 lead into 38-18 edge, and everyone realized it was over.”We made better decisions, played with more heart, and everyone was diving all over the floor,” Phillips said.
Rankin, silent in the first half, got rolling during that big flurry and scored six points in a minute.
“The pace got a little uncomfortable for North, and I’d like to think we caused that,” Causby said. “We found out the best way to box out Hargrave ó getting them to turn it over before he got down there.”
North finished the night with a long list of nasty numbers. The Cavaliers committed 24 turnovers,went 1-for-11 on 3s, missed nine of 13 free throws and shot 29.8 percent from the field. All those negatives undermined their one huge positive ó a whopping 22 offensive rebounds, including eight by Hargrave, a forceful fellow who was CCC Defensive Player of the Year in football.
“Our big guys, and I’d include Bell, Julian Hicks and Hunter Feezor as well as Hargrave, didn’t finish often enough, but they did battle inside,” Everhart said. “The big problem is we didn’t handle their pressure well at all, and there when Salisbury had that big run we dropped our heads and started feeling a little sorry for ourselves.”
Salisbury’s stats weren’t great, but Brandon Abel finished with 10 points and eight boards, and the Hornets shot 54.5 percent after halftime.
Still, Causby wasn’t thrilled with a 1-for-4 effort on dunks or with a lack of patience in halfcourt sets. A strength all year, halfcourt execution took a vacation.
“Through my eyes, our effort in the second half saved us, but we were undisciplined both halves,” Causby said. “We don’t mind scoring in bunches, but we also like to score with discipline. Tonight, we were one out of two.”
north rowan (39) ó Hargrave 11, Fortson 6, Bell 5, Hipps 5, Hicks 4, Gill 2, Feezor 2, Smyre 2, Blakeney 2, Sims, Rudisell, Overstreet, Vogel, Rhames.
salisbury (66) ó Rankin 14, Williams 14, Abel 10, Weant 8, Phillips 6, Hailey 6, Wilkins 3,Morris 2, Jones 2, Knox 1, McCain, Do, Lingard, Wood .N. Rowan 11 4 13 11 ó 39
Salisbury 15 10 23 18 ó 66