Prep Basketball West Regional: Salisbury girls 64, Mitchell 42

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 5, 2009

By Bret Strelow
GREENSBORO ó Ashia Holmes answered a challenge, and a more imposing one now awaits her team.
Shi-Heria Shipp scored 23 points and De’Rya Wylie added 16 as Salisbury’s girls advanced to the final of the 2A Western Regional with a 64-42 victory against Mitchell on Wednesday night at UNCG’s Fleming Gym.
The Hornets (27-3) next face unbeaten rival East Davidson, which is 3-0 this season against its CCC counterpart, in a state semifinal Saturday at 2 p.m.
“They’ve beat us three times,” Shipp said, “but we’re going to come out with the same intensity and do what we have to do in practice and come back Saturday ready to play.”
A breakout performance from Holmes provided Salisbury with a spark in its latest victory. She contributed five first-half steals, a game-high eight rebounds and a career-high 15 points.
Holmes also did an effective job defending taller forward Autumn Thompson, who finished with 11 points and seven boards.
“Lately Ashia’s been claiming that she’s a beast, so we told her that this was the night to prove she’s a beast,” Salisbury coach Andrew Mitchell said. “She said she was going to prove it.
“They had a tough post player who had led them in scoring the last couple of games, and our motivation for (Holmes) was that if you want to be a star in this game, it doesn’t have to be scoring.”
Holmes swiped the ball from Lakin Norris, who totaled 19 points but was harassed into eight turnovers, on Mitchell’s first possession and recorded three steals in the opening quarter.
Holmes, a sophomore, had never scored more than 12 points in a varsity game. She helped the Hornets register 20 offensive rebounds and finish with a 41-24 advantage on the glass.
“Coach challenged me to push myself and told me the person I’m defending is a beast that will be grabbing all the boards,” Holmes said. “I just tell him, ‘I can do it, too. I may be small, but I’m a beast.’ ”
The Hornets forced 10 turnovers while establishing a 16-6 lead in the first six minutes, and Mitchell (27-3) attempted only four field goals in the entire quarter. Salisbury, thanks to 10 offensive rebounds, put up 24 shots in the same time frame.
It led by as many as 21 points in the first half and went to the break with 30 more field-goal attempts than the Mountaineers.
“When you put up a shot and it goes off, you have to go get it,” said Wylie, who went 7-for-10 from the floor. “You get your shot blocked, go up and get it and keep going up.”
Norris, who entered with a 21.5 scoring average, accounted for all 10 of her team’s third-quarter points. Her 3-pointer midway through the period pulled Mitchell within 43-31, and it missed four jumpers with a chance to draw closer.
Ayanna Holmes ended Salisbury’s drought by making two free throws with 1:14 left in the quarter, and a productive final 10 seconds gave the Hornets some breathing room.
Shipp penetrated into the lane for a layup, and Bubbles Phifer stole the inbounds pass. She drew a foul after rebounding her own miss, and one free throw pushed Salisbury in front 48-31.
“Defense has been our pride all year,” Mitchell said. “Whenever we come in and are aggressive on defense and are making good decisions, then usually good things happen for us.
“We get up a lot of shots, and we miss quite a few of them, but we have players who want to go after the offensive boards. I think that makes a difference.”
The Hornets overcame a rough shooting night from Phifer, a junior who scored a season-low three points to reach 990 for her career, while notching another lopsided win.
Salisbury has prevailed by at least 17 points in each of its victories during a season in which East Davidson, a 53-33 winner over Smoky Mountain on Wednesday, has caused the only blemishes.
The Golden Eagles (31-0) beat Salisbury by six points in each regular-season matchup and won 45-43 in the CCC tournament final.
East Davidson, the defending 2A champion, hasn’t lost since the Hornets survived a two-overtime thriller in last year’s league final.
“They’re just so good, and there’s no secrets between us,” East Davidson coach Terry Allmon said. “We’ve played each other for what seems like forever.”
SALISBURY (64) ó Shipp 23, Wylie 16, As.Holmes 15, Ay.Holmes 5, B.Phifer 3, Heilig 2, N.Phifer, Rice.
MITCHELL (42) ó Norris 19, Thompson 11, Jensen 4, Smith 3, Glenn 3, Ayers 2, Jones, Hall, Parsley, Huskins.
Salisbury 18 20 10 16 ó 64
Mitchell 11 10 10 11 ó 42