Salisbury girls 80, East Rowan 31
By Ronnie Gallagher
The opening tip went like this:
Jessica Heilig easily controls to Ayanna Holmes, who whips a pass to twin sister Ashia for a layup.
It took all of three seconds for the Hornets to go up 2-0.
Well, it might as well have been.
Always remember, as soon as it scores, Salisbury plays defense. And that’s scarier than how productive the defending state 2A champ’s offense is.
The Hornets beat East Rowan 80-31 in the season opener for both teams last night in the Salisbury gym. It was never close with Salisbury leading by 10 after one, 29 at halftime and 47 after three.
Even in the fourth quarter, when coach Andrew Mitchell played nothing but his bench, the Hornets outscored the Mustangs 16-14.
“They’re awesome ó again,” said a thoroughly impressed East coach Karen Garmon. “They’re just as strong as last year. They’ll be state champions.”
Eleven of the 12 Hornets scored with only Hannah Lebowitz left out of the point total. But Lebowitz is like all the Hornets ó unselfish. She had one open look in particular but instead fired a pass inside to Najwa Allison for a layup.
“She had three assists,” Mitchell beamed. “I love the team spirit and togetherness.”
The third quarter was a perfect example. The first five baskets were scored off assists by four different Hornets: two by Ayanna Holmes, as well as Bubbles Phifer, Olivia Rankin and Heilig.
It turned a 40-11 lead at intermission into a 51-12 advantage.
“We said at halftime it would be easy to go back out and start clowning and make it rec ball,” Mitchell said. “We said look for a teammate and make a teammate better.”
Garmon was hurt by the strained quad muscle of Ashley Goins, her starting point guard. Turnovers had East trailing 10-0 very quickly.
Alaina Vanderford was a warrior, scoring all six of the Mustangs’ points in the opening quarter. She had to be the ballhandler against that rugged press and didn’t shoot very often.
“Alaina did a good job leading us,” Garmon said. “She’s tough as nails. They beat the snot out of her and she kept coming.”
Phifer, last year’s state championship MVP, got hot in the second quarter, scoring 10 of her 14 points, two buckets on rainbow threes. Ayanna Holmes had six steals, five assists and 11 points. Rankin, who transferred from East, had 10 points.
Three other Hornets, Heilig, Ashia Holmes and Doreen Richardson, each had eight.
Garmon may have discovered a sidekick for Vanderford in Tempest Means. She was the only Mustang with speed enough to stay up with the Hornets and scored seven. Taylor Honeycutt chipped in with six.
“Tempest was our firestarter tonight,” Garmon said. “She wasn’t afraid to go to the basket and she hit her free throws. She showed what kind of player she can be.”
But it didn’t matter. The Hornets looked in midseason form.
“That’s a typical Salisbury team,” Garmon sighed.
When told that Garmon is already predicting another state title for his team, Mitchell just smiled.
“I hope she’s a prophet,” he said.
EAST ROWAN (31) ó Vanderford 8, Means 7, Honeycutt 6, B. Boling 4, Sabo 2, Corpening 2, Dunlap 2, Holshouser, Drew, Fine, A. Boling, Eagle. Salisbury (80) ó Phifer 14, Ay. Holmes 11, Rankin 10, Ash. Holmes 8, Heilig 8, Richardson 8, Miller 6, Feamster 5, Allison 4, Woods 4, Young 2, Lebowitz.
E. Rowan 6 5 6 14 ó 31
Salisbury 16 24 24 16 ó 80