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Moir Christmas Classic boys championship: Salisbury boys 61, West Rowan 57

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
West Rowan’s Chris Smith scored on a spin move and punched the air with a fist, but Salisbury sophomore Darien Rankin was gliding for an airborne three-point play just three seconds later.
Smith’s basket with 5:41 remaining provided the last lead West enjoyed Tuesday. The relentless Hornets kept coming and beat the top-seeded Falcons 61-57 in a drama-filled Sam Moir Christmas Classic final.
Rankin was the catalyst for the second-seeded Hornets with 20 points and eight rebounds. He earned MVP honors with 54 points in Salisbury’s three victories.
John Knox scored 13 points, and Jahaan Hailey buried a pair of pivotal 3s. All-tournament pick Brandon Abel, who contributed eight points and six boards, helped hold West’s K.J. Sherrill to nine points.
Freshman Jordan Kimber scored 17 points and was West’s lone all-tourney pick.
Salisbury (11-1) won back-to-back Moir titles for the first time since it took three in a row from 1979-81.
“Our kids got a little too excited the last minute, but kids should be excited about playing in that atmosphere,” Salisbury coach Jason Causby said. “I feel very blessed to win this event back-to-back. It takes talented kids, and it takes quality kids who believe there’s a method to the madness and will stick to what you’re trying to do.”
West (7-1) dominated early. Kimber was making plays and shots, and Salisbury couldn’t settle in. The Falcons’ lead was 17-6 after eight minutes and swelled to 21-6 in the opening seconds of the second quarter.
“I was thinking then we were really going to have to pull some tricks out of the bag,” Rankin said.
Causby got his team back on track with a timeout.
His team was down 14, but he still believed Salisbury’s defensive pressure would eventually turn the tide.
“I think we were a little shell-shocked and awe-struck by the environment,” Causby said. “But at 23-9, I saw their eyes starting to focus in. These kids were not gonna let us get blown out ó or lose, for that matter.”
Rankin and Abel sparked a 14-2 flurry, and Salisbury climbed within 27-26 by halftime.
“At halftime, I knew it was our game if we could keep our heads and stay disciplined,” Rankin said.
West coach Mike Gurley, who has won four Moir titles, watched the Falcons’ early success evaporate.
He used his depth ó 12 Falcons rotated ó but turnovers piled up and Salisbury surprisingly ruled the glass.
“You have to do three things to beat Salisbury,” Gurley said. “Handle their pressure, stop their dribble-drives and keep them from getting second and third shots. For eight minutes, we did all three. For the last 24, we didn’t, and you have to credit Salisbury.
“Every loose ball, they got it. Every rebound that absolutely had to be had, they got it. Their offensive rebounders come from positions where you don’t expect ó the 2-man and the 3-man ó and those guys are crashing hard. That makes them unique, and it makes them very tough.”West desperately wanted to establish the 6-foot-7 Sherrill inside in the second half, but he also had to help out against backcourt pressure. The Falcons shot hastily several times before he could get set up.
The second half was frantic, furious and tight with neither team able to forge more than a three-point lead throughout the third quarter or the first four minutes of the fourth.
Salisbury held a 46-43 lead with 3:43 remaining when a Knox pass skipped off Romar Morris directly to Dominique Phillips, who laid the ball in. That wild moment finally provided separation. Hailey, quiet all night, drilled two huge 3s as Salisbury took charge.
“I was struggling ó everything was rimming in and out,” Hailey said. “It felt great to finally make two.”
Knox’s unconscious 3 from in front of the Salisbury bench with 1:30 left made Hornet fans gasp, but he drilled it for a 56-50 lead. After that, Salisbury just had to make free throws.
The Hornets had a 24-11 edge in the turnover battle and a staggering 16-5 edge in offensive boards.
“Our intensity was way up early, but I guess we played too hard and it fell,” Sherrill said. “You just have to give it to Salisbury. Those guys came ready to play in the second half.”


Salisbury 61, West Rowan 57SHS FG 3PT FT REB A S PT
Abel 4-10 0-1 0-2 2-6 1 1 8
Phillips 2-3 0-0 0-0 0-2 1 0 4
Weant 0-1 0-0 0-0 0-2 0 0 0
Rankin 8-19 0-1 4-8 2-8 1 4 20
Williams 2-5 0-1 1-1 2-5 5 2 5
Morris 1-5 0-0 0-3 4-5 2 2 2
Knox 5-15 1-9 2-4 3-4 3 2 13
Hailey 3-7 2-6 1-2 1-1 1 0 9
Totals 25-65 3-18 8-20 14-33 14 11 61
Percentages: FG .385, 3PT .167, FT .400
Team Rebounds: 5
Blocks: 1 (Weant)
Turnovers: 15WEST FG 3PT FT REB A S PT
Smith 1-4 0-0 1-2 1-2 0 1 3
BJSherrill 0-1 0-0 0-0 0-5 0 1 0
KJSherrill 2-5 0-1 5-7 1-12 0 0 9
KKimber 4-8 1-2 2-5 1-3 1 0 11
JKimber 6-11 3-3 2-2 0-1 1 2 17
KeSherrill 4-6 1-3 0-1 1-2 1 1 9
Grant 2-3 0-0 0-1 0-2 1 1 4
Moore 0-2 0-2 0-0 1-4 0 0 0
Crucitti 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-2 0 1 0
Noble 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Huffman 0-1 0-0 2-3 0-1 0 0 2
Gore 1-2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2
Totals 20-43 5-11 12-21 5-34 4 9 57
Percentages: FG .465, 3PT .455, FT .571
Team Rebounds: 2
Blocks: 1 (K.J. Sherrill)
Turnovers: 24Salisbury 6 20 9 26 ó 61
West Rowan 17 10 9 21 ó 57
 
 

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