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Prep Basketball: Salisbury boys 59, North Rowan 52

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.comEveryone was ready for the second half except three missing officials, and enthusiastic Salisbury principal Windsor Eagle, who can turn player introductions into the Gettysburg Address, pounded the buzzer on the scorer’s table repeatedly, hoping to attract their attention.
The scoreboard read Salisbury 34, North Rowan 10, so the whereabouts of the men in stripes provided Tuesday night’s first moment of suspense.
But not the last.
Shortly after the officials ó one of them good-naturedly faking huge yawns ó were welcomed back to the gym by Dr. Clyde Young’s trumpeted version of “Three Blind Mice” and merry applause from a nearly full house, North proceeded to turn Salisbury’s gym upside down.
As Hornet fans watched in dismay and disbelief, the Cavaliers cut a 27-point second-half deficit to three before losing 59-52.
“We knew they wouldn’t just lay down, and desperation can lead to miraculous comebacks,” relieved Salisbury coach Jason Causby said. “I guess it turned into a typical North-Salisbury game.”
Dominique Phillips led the Hornets with 13 points. Lamonte Bell had a career-best 17 for North.
Sixth-place North (7-15, 4-9 CCC) probably won’t make the playoffs, but it looked like the Lakers in the fourth quarter when it outscored the second-ranked Hornets 28-13.
Salisbury (22-1, 13-0 CCC) accomplished things despite the close call. It won its 22nd in a row, claimed an outright conference title and still has a chance to be the first SHS boys team since 1992 to run the table in its league. The powerhouse 1992 squad went 16-0 in the 3A SPC.
“We coulda done better, coulda played better,” said Salisbury sophomore John Knox who made huge plays in the final 30 seconds. “But we got the win.”
Salisbury’s first-half domination was thorough. The Hornets began slowly with a senior-night lineup, but once defensive demons Phillips and Romar Morris hit the floor, the Cavaliers were in serious trouble.
North led 6-5, but the Hornets finished the half on a relentless 29-4 run for that 24-point halftime lead.
“Salisbury is awfully quick and talented,” North coach Kelly Everhart said. “Their pressure was making us start our offense too far out.”
Fouls started piling up on Salisbury in the third quarter, and the Cavs traded buckets. Still, the Hornets led 46-24 after three quarters so no one was believing in miracles.
But the fourth quarter was crazy, a mad maze of Salisbury offensive fouls and putbacks by North’ strong frontcourt players.
“We spent the first half trying to block shots, but the second half we stepped over and took charges,” Everhart said. “That got us excited, and excitement is good. We proved to ourselves we can play.”North’s Bell, Julian Hicks and Javon Hargrave took over the glass. Salisbury stud Darien Rankin fouled out, and the Hornets couldn’t make a free throw.
The lead shrank steadily. It was 15, then 12, then 10. Then it was 48-40 when Hicks scored inside with 3:30 left to play.
“Coach told us at halftime North would still take its best shot, but we didn’t take that to heart enough,” Salisbury point guard Thaddeus Williams said. “They were outworking us and outrebounding us. We got comfortable and conservative and let them be the aggressor.”
Salisbury didn’t panic, but its foul shooting was a dreadful 9-for-20 in the final eight minutes.
A big 3-pointer by Andre Blakeney with 1:21 left had North fans screaming. After more missed free throws, buckets by Hicks and Bell pulled the Cavaliers within 55-52 with 35 seconds left.
Phillips went to the line with 24 seconds left.
“I said, “If he makes one of these we’ll win,’ ” Causby said.
Phillips missed the first, but made the second to make it a four-point game.
Blakeney had a good look at a 3, but he missed, and Knox fought for a critical rebound. Then Knox made two free throws with 13 seconds left, and Hornets fans finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“Second half, we played better team ball and communicated,” Bell said. “I could tell they were worried. We gave them a good fight.”
north rowan (52) ó Bell 17, Hicks 10, Blakeney 8, Hargrave 6, Hipps 5, Sims 4, Starks 2, Feezor, Rhames, Vogel, Jackson.salisbury (59) ó Phillips 13, Rankin 10, Williams 9, Morris 9, Abel 7, Knox 7, Lingard 2, Almeida 2, Wilkins, Weant
N. Rowan 7 3 14 28 ó 52
Salisbury 17 17 12 13 ó 59

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