SALISBURY — West Rowan’s girls basketball team was locked out its locker room at halftime Tuesday at Salisbury so it marched back to the visitor’s bench to gather for a pep talk from coach Todd McNeely.
The floor proved the best place for any zen-like reflection as well as execution in a 60-56 victory against Salisbury.
“We grew up a little bit tonight,” McNeely said. “Our freshman grew up and our team grew up. They made a run at us and I told them that’s why we practice as hard as we do, for situations like this.”
There was no need to think too much about such matters as the Falcons losing 13 straight to Salisbury as they beat their county rivals for the first time since 2004. West scored the final six points to break a 54-all tie and improve to 3-0.
Senior Shay Steele provided a game-best 29 points and worked around three fouls in the first half.
“I had to play smart but still be aggressive,” Steele said. “I couldn’t really go for the body contact but for the ball.”
Salisbury, who had its six-year-long streak of intra-county wins snapped last week, had an off night from the foul line going 6 for 16 and had leader Brielle Blaire foul out with 1:35 left in a tie game. The Hornets (1-2) had no answer and it didn’t score from there on out.
“You can’t give up 60 points and win the game,” Salisbury coach Doug Faison said. “We’re giving up too many easy baskets.”
Brielle Blaire finished with 15 points and seven blocks.
The teams battled to a 13-13 first quarter and Salisbury got its biggest lead on Bryanna Caldwell trey to start the second. Steele picked up her third foul with 5:24 left in the first half with the Falcons holding a 22-18 edge. West guard Nycieko Dixon hit a jumper before the buzzer to make it 29-26 West at halftime. Dixon finished with 13 points. The Falcons got a trey from Alison Sobataka and an easy two from Steele to push the lead to 34-26.
“She got her third foul and the rest of the girls stepped up big,” McNeely said. “That could have been a big swing right there.”
West continued to control the game and took a 48-41 edge to the fourth quarter. Salisbury then was dealt a blow when starter Ashley Blaire had to be helped off the floor after an ankle injury.
Steele got a steal and drew a foul to start the fourth as she gave West its biggest lead at 50-41 and again at 52-43 on layup. Salisbury rallied on a putback from Brielle Blaire and a fast-break three-pointer and it was 52-50 to force a West timeout. Salisbury tied it at 54 on Daterria Connor’s basket.
Steele drew a foul on a steal in the backcourt of Brielle Blaire. Blaire was called for her fifth foul trying to retain possession.
“I knew she was behind me and I knew I had to be smart,” Steele said.
Steele hit one of two free throws with 1:35 left to give West the lead for keeps.
“She’ll run over you,” Faison said of Steele. “These girls don’t like taking charges but starting tomorrow they will because we’re starting a charge drill tomorrow.”
Sobataka hit two freebies the next trip down and Khaila Hall drained her shots from the line to give West a 59-54 lead. Dixon’s free throw with 22 seconds left completed the scoring.
Caldwell and Connor both finished with 12 points for Salisbury.
WEST ROWAN (60) — Steele 29, Dixon 13, Sobataka 8, Hall 5, Q. Miller 3, S. Miller 2, Cross, Freeze, Alessandrini, James.
SALISBURY(56) — B. Blaire 15, Caldwell 12, Conner 12, Usry 9, Lattimore 4, A. Blaire 2, Gloster 2, Harris, Harmon.
W. Rowan 13 16 19 12 — 60
Salisbury 13 11 17 15 — 56
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