Shaw column: Hornets just win, baby

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2009

LEXINGTON ó By no means was this a work of beauty. All it was, ultimately, was the work of a champion.
Salisbury’s boys basketball team threw up an artistic air ball in the CCC final Friday night. It missed 12 more free throws than it made. It had an awful craving for turnovers ó there were 26 at last count. And for much of its 58-56 win over Lexington, it was awkward and ugly and oh-so-hard to watch.
But perhaps that’s what made it all so wonderful.
“The only stat that matters,” coach Jason Causby was saying, “is the one on the scoreboard when the clock runs out. The missed free throws kept piling up. The turnovers kept piling up. And somehow our guys just had the resolve to stick in there and get the win.”
That makes 26 straight, for those scoring at home. Quite amazing, considering this team doesn’t come with the Good Housekeeping seal-of-approval. They don’t always perform according the script, often zigging when you’d expect them to zag. Last night felt like something straight out of the Ike & Tina songbook ó the Hornets didn’t do nothin’ nice and easy.
“We’ve been in this position before,” said Thaddeus Williams, a chisled, ’69 Chevelle in sneakers and shorts. “When teams get on a run against us, we don’t fold. We continue to play our style of basketball. Sometimes its hard with all that adreneline going. But the coaches told us keep our composure, sustain their runs and just keep playing defense.”
That formula eventually proved effective against Lexington, a team that would love to run you out of the gym. The Jackets ran like famished cheetahs at suppertime ó and with 15 seconds remaining and the scored tied 56-56, their impatience with the ball may have cost them the championship.
“They won because they kept their heads when they were losing,” said Lexington forward Al Challenger. “They stayed within themselves.”
Whereas Lexington didn’t.
With a chance to take its first lead since late in the third quarter, Warren Holmes got careless and threw a high fastball past teammate Quandarious Crump on a fastbreak rush.
“It was a good decision,” Challenger said. “(Holmes) saw it was wide open, but he got over-excited. After that last turnover, we just lost hope.”
Not Salisbury. The game-winning basket came with no time on the clock, by a player who missed everything but the shot.
“I might have had my eyes closed on that one,” said Darien Rankin, the sophomore who drove through the high-rise district and made the title-clinching layup. “There were a lot of big guys coming at me. I was so determined. I put all of my strength into making that shot.”
And with it, he made the 26-1 Hornets a team no one in the 2A state playoffs wants to face.
What Salisbury has right here and now smells something like team spirit.
“We don’t doubt ourselves ó even when we’re behind,” said 6-foot-7 sophomore Alex Weant. “We always have the mentality that we’re going to come back and win.”
Weant was Alex in Wonderland early in the final period. His layup, tip-in and free throw capped a 13-4 spurt and put SHS ahead by five with 6:06 remaining.
It was enough to make Causby gush, “Alex Weant was huge in the fourth quarter. He was the difference in the game.”
The difference between winning and losing, something Salisbury hasn’t done since November.
“Sometimes that belief that you can’t lose or you’re not gonna lose, it aids you,” Causby added. “I think believing we’re gonna win every time we step on the floor is what gives us that resolve to pull through in games like this.”