SALISBURY — North Rowan’s Oshon West dunked at the buzzer, and the Cavaliers beat Salisbury 58-45 in front of a huge crowd at Catawba on Saturday.
It was a deceivingly lopsided final, however, and both teams knew it.
North had one sudden, blistering stretch in the third quarter that gave it some breathing room, but for the other 30 minutes, there wasn’t much difference between the Cavaliers (4-2), who are experienced and heralded, and the Hornets (2-3), who are mostly inexperienced and mostly unheralded.
“That’s just the nature of Salisbury vs. North Rowan,” North coach Andrew Mitchell said with a shrug. “It’s always going to be tough against Salisbury. It’s not like we came in here expecting to blow them out. If we do some of the things that we’re supposed to do, we win my by more than we did, but against Salisbury you have to be happy to get the win — even if it’s by one point.”
West and Michael Connor scored 18 points each for the Cavaliers.
Samron “Buster” Hillie had 18 for the Hornets, and Tyler Petty scored 14. Hillie scored 16 in the second half.
“Buster is hard to stay in front of and he can make plays,” SHS coach Jason Causby said. “He’s matured, and I was really proud of the way he played tonight because he did what he did within the team framework. He was driving, looking to draw people and find a teammate. He made good passes inside. We just didn’t finish on a lot of them.”
Connor and Alexis Archie hit a 3-pointer apiece and teamed for 11 points as North took a 16-11 lead after a quarter.
But the second quarter was a physical struggle. Salisbury has a tall, shotblocking frontcourt and played zone, and North had no success getting the ball to the rim or in making outside shots. Petty blocked a shot by Malik Ford, and that doesn’t happen to Ford often.
“They get a lot of their points inside from Oshon and Malik,” Salisbury forward Keion Adams said. “We were able to slow that down.”
Salisbury managed seven points in the second quarter, while North had just five.
North’s halftime lead was a snail-paced 21-18.
“Our big guys were doing a good job on the glass,” Causby said. “I really felt like we should’ve been up at halftime. We just missed a lot of chip shots.”
While it led by three points at the break, North couldn’t been have been less happy. Early practices were threatened if jump shots continued to be hoisted.
“We took 13 3-pointers in the first half and we made two of them,” said Connor, shaking his head. “That’s not our game. We’ve got to go to the basket. We’ve got to attack.”
North was clinging to a 24-21 lead midway through the third quarter when it abruptly caught fire.
West tossed in a creative hook in the lane, and then he scored in transition.
Then it was Connor’s turn. He exploded to the basket for an and-one, and then he stole the ball and dunked emphatically.
“In the halfcourt game, we stand around and, for a lack of a better word, we get beat up,” Mitchell said. “But it creates a lot of energy for us when aggressive defense leads to transition offense.”
Connor’s dunk was the play that put the Cavaliers up 10, and it let everyone know that North was back in charge.
North won that decisive third quarter 20-10.
“We had a good run there,” Connor said. “We took it inside, and those plays got our crowd hyped up again.”
Hillie kept scoring, but the Cavaliers had enough answers to keep control.
“I honestly felt like we kind of beat ourselves tonight with turnovers and missed free throws,” Adams said. “But North is a talented team. They had that one run where they really pushed the ball up the floor and got momentum. That’s what the good teams do.”
NORTH ROWAN (58) — Connor 18, West 18, Sanders 7, Archie 5, Bowman 4, Bates 4, Ford 2, B. Nelson.
SALISBURY(45) — Hillie 18, T. Petty 14, Fazia 6, Adams 4, Brown 2, Troutman 1, J. Petty, Alexander,
North Rowan 16 5 20 17 — 58
Salisbury 11 7 10 15 — 43