Salisbury streak on the line
SALISBURY — The year 2012 will be remembered in Rowan as the one in which West’s long run of county football dominance ended.
There’s a good chance that 2012 also will see the termination of Salisbury’s girls basketball dynasty, but that’s only a probability not a certainty.
It’s true that Salisbury limps into the latest Sam Moir Christmas Classic with a No. 6 seed and a 4-4 record — with all four losses to county opponents — but we won’t count the Hornets out just yet.
Catawba’s Goodman Gym has been the Hornets’ court and the Moir has been their tournament for so long that someone will have to beat them before the dynasty is officially over.
Salisbury has won nine straight titles under four different head coaches, defending the crown the last two years in championship games against Carson.
Salisbury’s winning streak in the tournament is now at an incredible 21 games, and the Hornets will try to extend that string under yet another different coach — Doug Faison, who was Jennifer Shoaf’s assistant and defensive guru when Salisbury got all that winning started.
The winning has lasted a long time. The seniors in this tournament were 8 or 9 years old the last time Salisbury lost a Moir tournament game.
This season, however, Salisbury has lost twice to second-seeded Carson and once each to top-seeded West and third-seeded East. Salisbury still has talented junior Brielle Blaire, but it has a tough draw. It might have to beat East, Carson and West on back-to-back-to-back days to make it 10 titles in a row.
So who’s the favorite?
Well, we’ve got co-favorites. Undefeated West, which plays fast and furious, has won 10 in a row, while defensive-minded Carson has won nine straight since losing its season opener to Central Davidson. Carson-West is the matchup a lot of people want to see in the final, and they may get their wish.
Carson’s success isn’t a surprise. The Cougars subtracted three starters from last season’s 23-4 team that lost an exciting 71-67 scrap with Salisbury in the Moir championship game, but they still have two standouts in seniors Kelly Dulkoski (Kennesaw State signee) and Allison Blackwell (Catawba) and the other three starters were key reserves last season. Dulkoski, the first female Cougar to score 1,000 points, and Blackwell, who is closing in on that milestone, have been great and are combining for 42 points a game.
Talented West has been a surprise in the sense that it has basically the same cast of characters who went 13-14 last season. The difference-maker has been freshman guard Khaila Hall, who does a lot of the ballhandling and decision-making. Part of the improvement also has been in the team-chemistry department. West has had some outstanding teams in its history, but this is the first one that’s been 10-0.
Shay Steele (Morehead State) is a scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking force for the Falcons. Nycieko Dixon is a scorer, and Alison Sobataka is a 3-point threat.
West’s schedule has not been tremendously difficult, but the Falcons did win at Salisbury and at Davie in their two biggest tests.
Speaking of Davie, the fifth-seeded War Eagles, who lost to West in overtime, are the darkhorse in this event and have a decent chance of winning it. Davie (6-5) is battle-tested and has four scorers, including 1,000-point producer Amy Steller (Pfeiffer). Asiah Peterson and Haleigh Hatfield are double-double threats every night.
East comes into the event 7-3 but faces a tough road. The Mustangs meet Salisbury (they’ve split with the Hornets) in the first round and they can expect to face Carson, a team that recently smothered the Mustangs 69-33, if they make it to the semifinals.
Fourth-seeded North (4-2) has lost twice to county opponents but has won its four games in the 1A YVC. North has exciting freshmen, but the Cavaliers probably are too young and too short (no one is over 5-foot-8) to make a run this year.
South (3-7) is better than the No. 7 seed usually is and has two prolific scorers in sophomores Avery Locklear and Cassidy Chipman. They combine for 38 points per game.