Prep basketball: East boys 66, Salisbury 54
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó There were dueling crowd chants as East Rowan’s Riley Weber-energized boys finally claimed a 66-54 win against short-handed Salisbury on Thursday at the East gym.
When SHS coach Jason Causby demanded a timeout with 2:29 left to go and his team trailing by 11, an energetic pocket of Hornet fans was serenaded with, “We can’t hear you!” by East’s student section.
SHS fans quickly retorted: “We play football!”
Both factions had plenty to shout about. East got a much-needed win. After starting 0-3, it really needed to beat somebody.
Salisbury fans had their priorities in order. Playoff football trumps non-conference basketball.
Six of the Hornets’ top 10 basketball players are still on the football field and will participate in tonight’s 2AA state semifinal against Newton-Conover.
Once the Hornets (0-2) get Darien Rankin and his friends in the gym, it’s unlikely anyone will be advising their fans to “Drive home safely!” with 90 seconds left to play.
Salisbury was 28-2 last season.
East coach Jim Lankford gets it. As thrilled as he was to win, as much as the Mustangs needed the win, he kept things in perspective.
“Absolutely no one is going to argue that we beat Salisbury at its best, and our guys understand that and know it’s going to be just a huge challenge when we go over to Salisbury,” he said. “But we’ll take the win. We played as a team, played with more chemistry, and the team we beat tonight was as good as the teams that beat us the last two nights. It’s a good step.”
Cole Honeycutt and Omar Gittens scored 13 points each for East. Phillip Ajayi had 11, Brian Grohman added 10 and Weber posted nine. Weber also had six rebounds, six assists, four steals and took a charge before fouling out in the final minute.
“We knew we had the players, and now we know we’ve got a team,” Weber said. “This is a start. We can go on from here.”
Causby got 17 points from Cory Murphy, 12 from Tion McCain, 10 from Jahaan Hailey, the only Hornet who has played significant varsity minutes, and nine from freshman Tyler Petty.
Hailey, who scored 26 points in an overtime loss to North Rowan, is a smooth shooter who had a tough night. He was 1-for-13 from the floor in the second half, and the Hornets needed him to be hot.
“Jahaan’s trying to carry us, and we’ve asked him to be things ó not just scorer, but ball-handler and defensive stopper ó that are different roles than he’s had,” Causby said. “Mostly he has got to be the leader on the floor right now, getting guys in the right positions. We’ve got to try to bridge where we are now as a team to where we can be once we have all our players.”
East led 29-25 at halftime, but the Hornets shot 33 percent in the second half and allowed East to take over.
“When you’re shooting more 3s than 2s, it’s definitely not by design,” Causby said. “We didn’t execute offensively at all. It was one pass and shoot.”
East’s lead was 54-49 when Honeycutt hit a runner in the lane with 3:48 left.
Weber then made one of the game’s key plays ó a steal and pass to Ajayi for a layup and a nine-point lead.
After the Hornets missed, Honeycutt drilled a 3 to push the lead to 12 points.
It was officially over after Weber drove, went up to shoot right-handed and finished with a floating, lefty bank after Petty forced him to switch hands in mid-air.
“All our guys were more under control tonight and made better decisions,” Lankford said. “Riley had a great game. He competed from the moment he stepped on the floor until the end.”
SALISBURY (54) ó Murphy 17, McCain 12, Hailey 10, Petty 9, Wilkins 6, Nunn, Woods, Wood, Humble.
EAST ROWAN (66) ó Honeycutt 13, O. Gittens 13, Ajayi 11, Grohman 10, Weber 9, Watkins 5, Driver 3, H. Gittens 2, Curlee, Joshua, Rogers.
Salisbury 17 8 18 11 ó 54
E. Rowan 15 14 20 17 ó 66
By Jessie Burchette Salisbury Post A man who served 16 years on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners admits he... read more