Prep Basketball: Salisbury boys 66, West Davidson 61
By David Shaw
TYRO — Salisbury’s boys basketball team didn’t do anything the easy way Saturday night.
Playing without sparkplugs Darien Rankin and Romar Morris — both of whom took official visits to the University of North Carolina — the Hornets struggled past host West Davidson.
“It wasn’t the same without them,” senior Alex Weant said after Salisbury gained an unsightly 66-61 CCC win, its third of the week. “Different pieces had to be filled by different players. But hey, a win’s a win and we’ll always take one.”
And this one came on a night when SHS (10-4, 3-0) converted only 12 of 26 free throws and found itself down 55-50 with 4:40 remaining.
“We knew our first two conference wins would go down the drain if we lost this one,” said junior Jarrett Rivens said. “We knew we had to buckle down.”
The mission was accomplished by outscoring West (4-8, 0-3) by a 16-6 margin down the stretch. The comeback began when Corey Murphy hit a 3-pointer from the left side. Then in the final minute the do-everything guard’s three-point play put the Hornets ahead for keeps.
“Corey’s a senior and we expect him to make those big shots when he gets open looks,” said winning coach Justin Morgan. “We’re really glad he knocked down those two.”
Salisbury was led by Rivens — the 6-foot-6 forward who played even bigger. He contributed a team-high 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and recorded four blocked shots. His clutch layup, off a nifty feed from Tion McCain, put SHS ahead 60-59 with 57 seconds to play.
“We were just not ready to lose this game,” he said. “Our coach got on us real hard. It wasn’t our best, but I’ll take that win.”
For all their difficulty from the foul line, it was three free throws the Hornets converted in the closing seconds that sealed the verdict. Salisbury scored the game’s final six points, including two by Murphy and two by McCain with 13 seconds on the clock.
“Free throws can win games and they can lose games,” McCain said. “We just had to pick up the focus. (Teammate) B.J. (Wood) was telling me during a timeout, ‘No pressure, man. You got this. Just knock ‘em down because we need this.’”
For much of the night Salisbury looked fatigued. The toll of winning a double-overtime game at Lexington on Tuesday and a 70-67 decision over East Davidson on Friday was an easy factor to target. So was playing without its leading scorer and premier defender.
“Those are two big energy guys,” Morgan said. “Rankin’s also one of our better ballhandlers. You take away all the plays he and Romar make and the chemistry is a little different. You expect other guys to step up and make some plays — and some guys did that tonight.”
Rivens answered the bell early in the second quarter when his layup gave Salisbury a 20-12 lead, its largest of the night. West gradually surged back and used a 9-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to take 53-48 lead on a three-point play by all-conference forward Jordan Cameron.
“There was a little concern,” McCain said. “We realized we had to pick it up if we wanted to be No. 1 in the conference.”
Three-pointers by Murphy and McCain — and a scambling defense that wouldn’t take ‘No’ for answer — lifted the Hornets in the last five minutes.
“They became a little more active when we had them down in the fourth quarter,” said WD coach Russ Snyder. “They were getting their arms out and deflecting a lot of balls.”
In the end, Weant may have provided the best summary. “Right now we’re anxious to get back on the court,” he said. “Because it feels like we left something out there.”
SALISBURY (66) — Rivens 17, Weant 13, Knox 11, Murphy 11, McCain 9, Adams 4, Wood 1, Wilkins, Dunkin, Petty.
WEST DAVIDSON (61) — Cameron 22, Moore 15, Baynard 8, McCandles 7, Teague 7, Bradley 2.
Salisbury 12 21 15 18 — 66
W. Dav. 10 18 20 13 — 61