Moir Christmas Classic Final: Salisbury girls 69, West Rowan 29
By Bret Strelow
West Rowan’s Desere Cross tried to position herself in the middle of the six-person group, but Jessica Heilig playfully shoved her to the periphery.
Cross pretended to shed tears to the delight of a packed Goodman Gym. She remained an outsider even after Salisbury’s five starters allowed her to pose with them for the all-tournament team picture.
The amount of white, red and gold in that shot reflected how dominant the Hornets were in winning their seventh consecutive Sam Moir Christmas Classic girls title.
Senior guard Bubbles Phifer was named MVP following a 69-29 victory against West on Wednesday, and she joined four teammates at midcourt during the awards ceremony. Cross stood out as the only non-Hornet.”It was funny,” Cross said with a laugh. “I played AAU with half their team, so it was all fun and games, nothing serious. (The crying) was fake, all for the crowd. I like making a show for people.”
The Hornets (11-0) put on quite a show themselves in two tournament games. They jumped out to a 32-0 lead in a 67-20 semifinal win over Carson and scored the first 23 points against the Falcons.
Phifer ó who had 12 points, eight steals and five assists Tuesday ó guarded West’s Ayana Avery for three quarters and held her scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting in that stretch. Ashia Holmes, who shot 14-for-16 in two Moir games, led the Hornets with 16 points in the final.
Heilig (15 points) and Olivia Rankin (10) grabbed eight rebounds apiece, and Ayanna Holmes had three of Salisbury’s 24 steals.
“Championships always feel good,” second-year Salisbury coach Andrew Mitchell said. “It would be hard to know Salisbury has won seven by the way the young ladies responded. They act as though it’s the first one, and that’s good. That means we’re humble and appreciating everything.”Five of the Hornets’ first six baskets came on layups that followed steals, and West (6-3) was 0-for-13 from the field with nine turnovers before Allison Dutton banked in a shot with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
Cross, who combined for 21 points and 11 rebounds in two tournament victories, finished with five points against Salisbury. Avery scored all seven of her points in the fourth quarter, which started with the Hornets holding a 55-14 lead.
“They’ve got that mystique, sort of like West Rowan does in football and Davie does in wrestling,” West coach Erich Epps said. “You play Salisbury’s girls, you’re a little bit fearful, I guess. That fear factor was really the gameplan, and we came out with our eyes big.
“We threw it away and didn’t get back. As soon as it’s turned over, they get on the break and they go. That’s what makes them good.”
Ashia Holmes shot 8-for-10 against West, and seven of her field goals were layups.
After making all six of her shots against Carson, Holmes was at 12 of 12 for the tournament when she missed a rushed attempt from the free-throw line as the first half ended Wednesday.
“Me, I’m not more of a shooter; I like to go to the hole,” said Holmes, who played inside last year and is on the wing as a junior. “If I know I can get past you and we’re running a specific play, then I’m going to take the chance. It’s a different adjustment being on the wing to shoot, and I know I’m not going to shoot if I get it when I’m open. I have to get in the mindset that you’ve gotta shoot the ball.”