Moir Christmas Classic: Salisbury boys 70, West Rowan 62
By Bret Strelow
– – See a gallery of photos from the gamer here. – – The path to a third consecutive Sam Moir Christmas Classic championship appeases Salisbury coach Jason Causby despite its difficult appearance.
The No. 1 seed and bye went to Carson, which will face the fifth-seeded Hornets (3-3) in a semifinal tonight at 7:30 p.m. Salisbury, a formidable contender now that it has all of its football players, won 70-62 against 2008 finalist West Rowan in a tournament opener Monday afternoon.
The Hornets were in action for the first time in 16 days.
“It might not be to everybody else’s advantage, but it was definitely to our advantage to get out and play,” Causby said. “We just needed to play. We weren’t good enough record-wise to earn a bye, but if we did, I think we’d be in a hole by starting (tonight).”
Jahaan Hailey went 12-for-14 from the line, scored 19 points and collected four steals to lead the Hornets. Darien Rankin had 18 points and eight rebounds.
Domonique Noble totaled 19 points for West, which lost 61-57 in a drama-filled final last December.
The turnout for a 1:30 p.m. matchup Monday was good, and the first half ended in a 29-all tie. Hailey and 6-foot-7 freshman Tyler Petty started the second half in place of Dominique Phillips and Alex Weant ó who had three fouls apiece ó and Salisbury went on a 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the third quarter.
“To make a run at Salisbury, you have to take care of the basketball, stop their dribble-drives and body out and rebound,” said West coach Mike Gurley, whose team outrebounded Salisbury and committed only eight turnovers. “If they start playing jumping jacks with it, it’s really hard to stop them. They had just enough runs to be a positive for them.”
Hailey scored six of his team’s 10 points in the third-quarter run.
West (2-3) drew within 40-37 before Salisbury junior Corey Murphy drilled two 3-pointers in a span of nine seconds late in the period.
“Last year on jayvee I didn’t really play a whole lot,” Murphy said. “I worked hard to get better. I wanted to be able to help the team without being able to start, and I wanted to have my coach be able to rely on me if he needed my help.”
Murphy, who gained valuable experience as Salisbury played without a complete roster, didn’t hesitate to shoot again once Hailey stole a pass following the first 3-pointer.
“He’s a kid that kept hanging around, doing the little things, and as a coach he earned a lot of our respect,” Causby said. “You do things the right way for long enough, eventually good things happen.”
Salisbury took a 46-42 lead into the fourth quarter, and the margin reached double figures when Hailey made a steal as he lunged toward the scorers table.
He blindly tossed the ball back over his right shoulder to John Knox, who converted a transition layup. The lead grew when Hailey hit two free throws.
A 3-pointer from West’s Maxx Gore started a mini-rally, and Noble had a breakaway opportunity with the Falcons trailing 63-57 in the final 70 seconds. A non-flashy dunk attempt rolled around and out.
The fact that West fouled the pure-shooting Hailey on the next possession bothered Gurley more.
“We knew they’d get at us, and we tried to prepare ourselves for them as much as we could,” Rankin said. “A game like this, you have to be prepared for it, and that’s what we came to do.”
NOTE: West returns to action Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in the fifth-place game against the Davie-East winner.
SALISBURY (70) ó Hailey 19, Rankin 18, Knox 11, Murphy 8, Morris 4, Jones 4, D.Phillips 2, Weant 2, Petty 2, Nunn.
WEST ROWAN (62) ó Noble 19, K.Sherrill 14, K.Phillips 14, B.Sherrill 5, Warren 5, Gore 3, Cuthbertson 2, Crucitti, Phifer.
Salisbury 15 14 17 24 ó 70
West Rowan 11 18 13 20 ó 62