SALISBURY — Salisbury’s girls beat North Rowan for the 18th straight time on Saturday, but it had a far different feeling han most matchups between the neighbors.
North, talented but young, led by a dozen points and had Salisbury on the ropes in the second half before wilting. Outscoring the Cavaliers 25-8 in the fourth quarter, Salisbury pulled it out 54-46.
“We only played one quarter,” Salisbury coach Doug Faison said. “But we played that quarter like we’re supposed to play. That fourth quarter was our best quarter all season. We played with a sense of pride.”
Salisbury came into the game on a two-game losing streak, with home losses to Carson and West Rowan making it the first time — believe it or not — since the 2002-03 season that the Hornets had lost back-to-back games.
Salisbury star Brielle Blaire, plagued by fouls, had scored only four points heading to the final eight minutes, but she finished with 15. Nyasia Harris, Bryanna Caldwell, Vashti Usry and Daterria Connor all played well down the stretch for the Hornets (3-2).
“Brielle got a lot of help,” Faison said. “And she needs that help.”
Freshman Special Washington led the Cavaliers (2-2) with 16 points, Aliyah Farmer and Fredejah Royer scored 10 each.
Neither team shot well in a first half that ended with the Cavaliers taking a 22-20 lead on a layup by Farmer. Salisbury shot 25 percent in the half, while North checked in at 32 percent.
North surged early in the second half and used 3-pointers by Royer and Washington to take that 12-point lead at 32-20 halfway through the third quarter.
Ashley Blaire made a big bucket for the Hornets to stop a complete collapse, but North still carried a 38-29 lead into the final quarter.
That lead could’ve and probably should’ve been even bigger.
“I’m not going to say we played well for three quarters because we missed a lot of layups and we failed to rebound all night,” North coach Brian Lytton said. “If we make layups and rebound our lead would’ve been much more substantial.”
After a timeout by Lytton, North executed on offense and Royer converted a layup for a 40-33 North lead with six minutes left.
But it was all Hornets after that.
Connor drove for a huge layup, and then Brielle Blaire took over. Twice in a row she stole the ball and drove coast-to-coast for layups, and North’s lead was reduced to 40-39 with 4:45 remaining. Moments later, the Hornets had the lead.
“This was our game, but we just kept turning the ball over, and even when they missed shots, Salisbury was getting the offensive rebounds,” Lytton said. “We were trading two or three shots for no shots at all, and you can’t win against anybody doing that.”
A drive by Amber Carter with 2:13 remaing, pulled North back within 47-45, but the backbreaking play came next.
North deflected a Salisbury pass, but it bounced directly to Brielle Blaire, who let a long one fly from the right side. The ball struck the iron, bounced high, and fell back through the cords for three points and a 50-45 Salisbury lead.
From there, Caldwell and Usry made enough free throws to keep the Hornets in control.
“We dug deep and did the things we needed to do in the fourth quarter,” Faison said. “Tough defense and transition offense. That’s what our game has to be, and that’s what we did in the fourth quarter.”
NOTES: Salisbury played without injured Patreece Lattimore. … The last time North beat Salisbury, Sophilia Hipps and Shemieka Brown fueled a 53-45 victory in January, 2006, but the Hornets still won three of four meetings that season. … Salisbury crushed North 74-46 and 65-32 last season. ,,, North had not lost by single digits to the Hornets since 2007.
NORTH ROWAN (46) — Washington 16, Farmer 10, Royer 10, Robinson 4, Carter 4, Allen 2, Sells, Lingle, Smith.
SALISBURY(54) — B. Blaire 15, Usry 11, Harris 8, Connor 6, Caldwell 5, A. Blaire 4, Gloster 3, Harmon 2.
North Rowan 10 12 16 8 — 46
Salisbury 10 10 9 25 — 54