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Prep Basketball Playoffs: Salisbury boys 74, South Iredell 64

By David Shaw
dshaw@salisburypost.com
The script remained the same for Salisbury’s boys basketball team Monday night ó and so did the result.
Twenty-six straight victories turned 27 when the Hornets fought through a sluggish start and gained a 74-64 win over visiting South Iredell in the first round of the state 2A playoffs.
“It wasn’t our best but we got the win,” sophomore Darien Rankin said after Salisbury (27-1) advanced to Wednesday’s second round. “That’s the thing about being No. 1. We know everyone’s going to give us their best shot.”
Including South Iredell (13-14). The Vikings, a squad that favors the half-court game, kept pace with quicker Salisbury in the first quarter and took a 14-13 lead. They caught another second wind in the fourth period and put a mild scare into the Hornets when A.J. Barringer’s hook shot from the right base line trimmed a 17-point deficit to 62-55 with 3:38 remaining.
“We wanted to make them run with us, but they had a lot of success doing that,” noted SHS coach Jason Causby. “We weren’t doing a good job defending them.”
Even SI interim coach Michael Fisher found that surprising.
“Our game is to play a set offense,” he said. “But we got caught up running the ball up and down the court. That’s not us, but we kind of took ourselves out of our own game.”
Salisbury regained the lead early in the second quarter when Romar Morris scored on a double-pump layup and Brandon Abel drove the lane for another basket. By the time teammate John Knox caught fire ó he drained three 3-pointers and scored 11 of his 13 first-half points in a four-minute span ó the Hornets were buzzing again.
“John Knox was hitting wide-open shots in the first half,” said Abel, who battled foul trouble all night. “He was the difference.”
Salisbury closed the first half on an 8-0 run and led 36-26 at the break. Rankin’s runner boosted the lead to 44-27 early in the third quarter and the Hornets were threatening to run away and hide. Instead, the Vikings inched back into the game, one defensive stop at a time. A 3-ball by forward Quincy Davenport drew the guests within 60-49 with five minutes remaining and a putback by senior D.J. Duncan ó his only field goal ó made it a nine-point game with 4:10 to play.
“We kind of lost track of them in transition,” said Salisbury’s Thaddeus Williams. “Then someone took a timeout and we regrouped. We switched to a zone press, just to give them something different to react to.”
It was Williams who brought Salisbury’s evening in for a safe landing. Layups by Morris, Dominique Phillips and Rankin restored order, while Williams ó a third-year starter at point-guard ó made it stand up.
“That point-guard played a heads-up game,” said Fisher. “He makes the difference in them being a good team and the No. 1 team in the state.”
Afterward, Causby seemed relieved to get Step 1 out of the way. “We have all the tools to have a good (postseason) run,” he said. “You gotta have a little bit of luck along the way. You’ve got to stay out of foul trouble, not turn the ball over and stay injury free. We haven’t had much of that, so maybe destiny is on our side. But I’d much rather rely on our ability than destiny.”

NOTES: Salisbury will host Wilkes Central (18-8), a 67-62 first-round winner over West Stanly, in the second round. … Fisher was subbing for South Iredell head coach David Rutledge, who received two technical fouls in the previous game and was forced to sit out.
south iredell (64) ó Ramsey 20, Barringer 15, Davenport 14, Leaptrott 5, Burch 4, Duncan 4, Settle 2.
salisbury (74) ó Rankin 18, Knox 13, Williams 13, Weant 8, Abel 8, Phillips 6, Morris 5, Wilkins 3, Jones, Lingard.
S. Iredell 14 12 16 22 ó 64
Salisbury 13 23 17 21 ó 74

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