East-West girls basketball: East 66, West 58
By Mike London
GREENSBORO — Nineteen of the 20 all-stars assembled for Monday’s East-West women’s basketball game were introduced to the crowd at Greensboro Coliseum and basked in modest applause.
Salisbury’s Ayanna Holmes was the unfortunate one momentarily overlooked, but she handled the gaffe with her customary grace and good humor. She smiled, giggled and raised her arms in a helpless, why-me gesture as she stood alone in front of the West bench, while her coaches desperately tried to inform the public address announcer that she’d been left out.
Finally, Holmes got 10 seconds or so of fame, trotting out solo to the loudest ovation of all.
It would’ve made a nice story if the forgotten girl had turned in a memorable performance, but it was a relatively silent night for the defensive-minded Holmes, who scored three points and pulled down four rebounds.
It also was a night on which Holmes’ SHS teammate Olivia Rankin would have loved a little quiet. All Rankin heard were whistles in the West’s 66-58 loss to an East team powered by the towering presence of ECU-bound MVP Courtney Melvin (18 points, 11 rebounds), whom Salisbury’s girls had twice bested in 2A state championship game showdowns with East Bladen.
“Probably the worst game of my life,” Rankin said with a sigh. “We knew defense was going to be the biggest part of this game, but things just didn’t work out for us.”
Rankin and Holmes were acknowledged as academic all-stars before tip-off and both were in the starting lineup.
After that, highlights were scarce.
Rankin did get off to a nice start, creating a turnover on the East’s first possession and cleaning the defensive board on its second. Moments later, she scored her only point.
But the first two minutes of the second quarter were pure disaster. Rankin picked up her second, third and fourth fouls in an exasperating span of less than two minutes.
“I’d planned to play the two Salisbury girls together as much as I could,” West coach Mike Norman said. “But the East team had a bunch of physical bangers, and ‘Big Easy’ — that’s what I call Olivia — got into foul trouble. You want to play everybody, and the last thing you expect in an all-star game is foul trouble, but we had to take her out.”
The 6-1 Rankin, headed to UNC Charlotte, mostly got in trouble trying to help out teammates. Two of her early fouls came with her hands straight up in the air, but physical opponents created contact and whistles blew.
“There were things we worked on in practice that we just couldn’t do in the second half because of all the fouls,” Rankin said.
It still was a tight game until the final minute, but the West was hit with 31 personals, while the East had 20. The East shot 44 free throws, compared to the West’s 25.
Holmes, modeling the green shoes she’ll be wearing at UNC Charlotte, scored a transition bucket in the second quarter and acquitted herself well defensively.
Her main task was containing super-quick East guard Chelsea Lindsay (Hillside). The Clemson signee shot 2-for-10, and Holmes can take some pride in that.
It was a disappointing game for two Hornets who almost always won (Holmes was 113-6 in four seasons), but still a night to remember.
“You never like to lose,” said Rankin, managing a small smile. “But this was still a great experience.”