Salisbury girls 77, Central Davidson 53
By Ronnie Gallagher
LEXINGTON — During an early timeout, Salisbury coach Chris McNeil gathered his girls around and informed them of a very important fact concerning the Central Davidson Spartans.
“They can play!” he bellowed.
Behind Jessica Heilig, the talented Hornets (13-1, 4-0) revved it up the rest of the half, led by 21 at intermission, and sailed to a 77-53 CCC victory.
When McNeil called his timeout, Central was playing well. The Spartans even led 5-2 at one time. When Heilig hit a free throw for a 14-11 lead, Central coach Kevin Hudson looked up at the scoreboard, and told himself, “We’re playing pretty good.”
And just like that, Salisbury pulled away.
“As soon as I thought that,” Hudson said, “we make three straight turnovers and Salisbury scores six straight points.”
The 20-11 lead gradually grew and the game became a rout.
“They have an excellent team,” McNeil praised. “They move the ball well and play defense. Our game plan got away from us. What we prepared for, they did something different. We had to make an adjustment.”
Central (13-3, 4-1) is thought of as the CCC’s second-best team and Salisbury proved how big the gap is between first and second. Heilig was the main reason early. She had 11 points and eight rebounds in the opening 16 minutes and joined Olivia Rankin (18 points) and Ayanna Holmes (17) in double figures.
“We’ve worked really hard with our bigs this week,” McNeil said. “We want her to move around and get comfortable.”
Heilig made the lane her personal playground, scoring all four of her first-half baskets after rebounds.
Central was still hanging around at 22-12 when Brielle Blaire drilled a jumper. Ayanna and Ashia Holmes followed with consecutive 3s and Doreen Richardson sped in for a layup. That made it 32-12. It was 44-23 at the half.
Hudson, the architect of this Spartan turnaround, said he had three goals coming in: few turnovers, limit second shots and take care of the basketball.
“In the first half, we were 0-for-3,” he sighed. “We didn’t take care of the ball and there were times we looked timid. There were certain times I looked on the court and we weren’t sure about what we were doing.”
Salisbury put it on cruise control in the second half and just did its thing. The last 16 minutes were an impressive display of passing and defense.
It didn’t help Central’s cause when star Jazmine Charles went out with a hip injury. She did return and joined Chandler Young with 12 points.
Even without her, Central played an even third quarter with each team scoring 14.
But when the fourth started, Salisbury blew it open with the first seven points. That made it 65-37.
“We underestimate no one,” McNeil said. “Their coach has done a really good job but in the end, we did what we do and really got it upcourt.”
Hudson gave credit where credit is due.
“Our game plan doesn’t change from team to team,” Hudson said. “But those three things I talked about, you have to do them better against Salisbury because they’re so much better.”
NOTES: The only downer for the Hornets was free-throw shooting. Salisbury was 13 of 28. … Salisbury welcomes West Davidson on Friday night.
SALISBURY (77)— Rankin 18, Ay. Holmes 17, Heilig 14, Ash. Holmes 8, Richardson 8, Miller 6, Blaire 6, Hicks, Thompson, Feamster, Allison.
CENTRAL DAVIDSON (53) — Charles 12, Young 12, Briggs 11, Chavis 9, Burkhart 6, Hedrick 3, Tuttle, Oxendine, Mayhew.
Salisbury 20 24 14 19 — 77
C. Dav. 11 12 14 16 — 53