Prep Basketball: Salisbury girls 68, North Rowan 27

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

By David Shaw
Salisbury’s girls basketball team may be on the road to glory, but it had to stop and pay a nominal toll Tuesday night.
The Hornets didn’t exactly hit the ground running in their CCC Tournament opener against visiting North Rowan. But they shook off a sleepy start and raced to a 68-27 victory.
“We came out lazy,” junior Bubbles Phifer said after Salisbury (22-2) earned a trip to Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal against Providence Grove at Central Davidson High School. “We thought we could just take this. But in the first quarter we played their game, not ours. We were out of control.”
The Cavs (4-20) had something to do with that. Despite dropping a couple of one-sided, regular-season decisions to SHS, they brought an anything-is-possible mindset into the game.
“We were slowing the game down, playing our type of basketball,” said first-year North coach Tony Hillian. “I told the ladies they were gonna try to shoot us out of here. I told them to just give all they could and leave it out here on the court.”
That’s not exactly Churchill’s fight-them-on-the-beaches spiel, but it had a favorable effect. North spent the game’s first three minutes hanging with an elite team ó and trailed by only 9-7 after freshman Tiffany Brown made a steal and a layup with 4:45 left in the period.
“I think North was prepared, had a lot of confidence and came here to win the game,” said winning coach Andrew Mitchell. “I think Coach Hillian had them believing they could win. On the other hand, we thought they would give it to us. That’s what happened early on. They were focused and we weren’t.”
It took three baskets by Shi-Heria Shipp to help Salisbury gain a 17-10 edge after one quarter.
“It seemed like we had no intensity in the beginning,” Shipp said. “We thought this was just another game and it would be an easy win. But North, they came out with a lot of heart.”
The pace of the game quickened in the second quarter after Mitchell called an audible and made an on-the-fly adjustment.
“Whenever we see a team slowing it down, we try to go into some kind of press and use it to our benefit,” he said. “We play better and score more when we press. We really didn’t want to get into that, but they came at us so hard we had to do something.”
Salisbury’s 2-2-1 zone defense caused numerous problems for the Cavs, who failed to convert a field goal attempt in the second and fourth quarters.
“We felt good in the first quarter because we were in the game,” said Symphony Roberts, North’s high scorer with 10 points. “We were playing good defense and moving the ball around. But when they changed defenses, some people got tired and we let up.”
By halftime the Hornets had mounted a 30-13 lead and forced 16 North turnovers. A 10-0 Salisbury run early in the third quarter ó triggered by Phifer’s 3-pointer from the right wing ó put the game out of reach. Phifer finished with a game-best 16 points. Shipp added 15 and senior D’Rya Wylie bumped and bruised her way for 13. Later, after Mitchell and his players had secured what they came for ó a second-round berth ó you could sense disappointment in their words.
“I’ve been in this business a long time,” Mitchell explained. “Long enough to know that when players come in real loose and giggling a lot, there’s a chance they’re not gonna look too sharp. We were hoping we would, but when you come in with that type of attitude, we expect to struggle a little bit. But these girls, they’ve been together long enough to pull out a game like this.”
Shipp already knew that.
“We can do a lot better,” she said. “Maybe we took this one for granted. It was a different kind of ballgame, but we did what we had to do.”

NOTES: Mitchell and Hillian are second cousins. … Salisbury junior guard Lacresha Young sang the national anthem. … Providence Grove (11-14) advanced to the semis with a 53-49 first-round upset of Ledford. The Hornets routed the Patriots 68-22 and 79-31 in regular-season matchups.
North Rowan (27) ó Roberts 10, T.Cuthbertson 7, D.Cuthbertson 5, Brown 4, Gregory 1, Ellis, Turner, Bethea, Rhinehart, Smyre.
salisbury (68) ó B.Phifer 16, Shipp 15, Wylie 13, N.Phifer 9, Miller 5, As.Holmes 4, Ay.Holmes 3, Clinding 2, Heilig 1, Young, Rice.
N. Rowan 10 3 11 3 ó 27
Salisbury 17 13 26 12 ó 68