2012 All-County Basketball: Salisbury's Blaire is Player of Year
By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY — Some of the most physical battles of 2012 for 16-year old Brielle Blaire came against a grown man.
That would be her father, Paul, who plays against her while helping tone her skills.
“Its difficult, but it’s fun,” Blaire said. “I try to use my height off it since we’re about the same.”
Those games may have helped her come into her own this season. That’s debatable, but whether or not Blaire is the Rowan County Player of the Year isn’t.
In 2012, Blaire figuratively had to be the man. The Hornets were coming off three straight state championships, but with seven departing seniors, a dropoff seemed evident.
With five college-level players on the team in 2011, there was no need to be selfish. This year however, saw Blaire assert herself physically and put the team atop her 6-foot-1 frame. She was bullish inside, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds, and added an outside element to her game, not being afraid to knock down 17-footers.
“You’re very fortunate when you have a player that you can play positions one through five,” Salisbury coach Chris McNeil said. “In high school you have a role and she embraced all the roles.”
In Salisbury’s 66-65 win against Thomasville, Blaire scored 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and drove for the game-winning shot in the final seconds. That came a few weeks after the big win against Carson in the Moir championship where she scored 33 points and collected 10 rebounds as the Hornets won their ninth straight Moir title and Blaire was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The Hornets did pretty well without the Holmes twins, Olivia Rankin, Jessica Heilig and Isis Miller, all whom departed. Even though the faces changed, the winning didn’t. Blaire, along with returning senior Doreen Richardson, had everything to do with that.
“I’m real proud of everybody on the team,” Blaire said. “A lot of people didn’t think we were going as far as we did. I enjoyed this year.”
Although a string of 20-straight playoff wins was broken and a fourth-straight championship was elusive, Salisbury still compiled a 25-4 record and stayed in the Top 10 2A poll for all of the season.
Blaire is already 10th in school history in career scoring with 978 points after two seasons. She scored 647 this season, the fourth-highest in Salisbury history. Blaire averaged 22.3 points a game this year and had five games where she eclipsed 30.
“I don’t think people realize, not only was her point total tremendous, her rebounding was tremendous,” McNeil said. It was a key to transforming our season.”
An all-county selection as a freshman, she scored 331 points and had many opposing Central Carolina Conference coaches asking “She’s a freshman?”
“With the volume of seniors we had leave, Brielle had to do a lot of mental and physical sacrificing,” McNeil said. “She embraced the role of leadership.”
McNeil says his phone rings incessantly for college inquiries about Blaire. The most impressive one so far? Notre Dame came twice to see the sophomore, once in the playoffs.
That’s impressive, but the scariest thing about Blaire now?
There’s two more years of her.