• 75°

Moir Christmas Classic girls final: West Rowan 62, Salisbury 48

SALISBURY — Red, black and gold had almost become the Sam Moir Christmas Classic’s official colors, but light blue returned to center stage on Saturday.

West Rowan’s top-seeded girls beat Salisbury decisively, leading by eight at halftime, pushing hard in the third quarter and finishing off the weary Hornets 62-48.

“I feel excited and overwhelmed right now,” said 6-foot-2 MVP Shay Steele. “We came out with a lot of intensity, and we made a statement that someone besides Salisbury can win this tournament.”

It was West’s first title since 1996 and the first time anyone other than the Hornets had won the event since Sophilia Hipps and North Rowan celebrated at Goodman Gym in 2002.

Cold-shooting Salisbury’s 23-game tournament streak crumbled under an avalanche of aerial buckets by Steele and Nycieko Dixon, while Khaila Hall and Alison Sobataka turned in sensational all-round games.

“We wanted to play Salisbury,” West coach Todd McNeely said. “It really does mean more. You want to be the team that ends a great streak like they’ve had. Salisbury is the bar in this county, and they set it high. We had to catch up.”

West, 13-14 a year ago, is now 12-0. Part of that is Hall, a freshman, who plays older than her years. Part of it is a willingness to put team success above individual numbers.

“Sharing the wealth,” McNeely said. “They’ve bought into that, and it makes all the difference.”

Sixth-seeded Salisbury (6-5) wasn’t going to be able to stay in the game forever with just one person scoring consistently. Brielle Blaire made incredible shots — leaning, floating, soaring — and tried to shoulder the offensive burden and beat West by herself the way she did Carson in the 2011 final. But the Falcons had too many options. Often Steele answered, but if she didn’t, Dixon, Sobataka or Hall did. Four Falcons scored in double figures, while only Blaire (27 points) reached double digits for Salisbury.

“We knew Brielle would try to take over, and she can just shoot over you,” said Steele, who had 17 points and eight boards. “But we stopped her some. We put a hand up on her shot and we boxed her out.”

Salisbury led 21-20 late in the first half when Dixon hit two free throws, Steele made two free throws, and Sobataka made a steal on one end and a 3-pointer on the other. That burst put West ahead to stay. When Steele scored on a stickback just before the halftime horn, the Falcons took a 31-23 lead to the locker room.

“Brielle came at us in the second half — she wasn’t going to just to go down,” McNeely said. “But we continued to push the ball. In the end, we were able to wear them down.”

A 3-pointer by Blaire midway through the third quarter pulled Salisbury within 38-34, but then West took off on a pivotal 9-0 run.

Dixon drove for two of her 18. Sobataka passed up an open look and fed Steele for two, and then Sobataka got a stickback. After two Dixon free throws and a bucket by Hall, it was 47-34, and a dynasty was teetering on the edge of a cliff.

“We shot terrible and we weren’t getting back on defense,” said Salisbury’s Doug Faison, who was coaching the Hornets for the last time. “No excuses ­— they beat us.”

West pushed the lead to 15 points early in the fourth quarter, and Salisbury never got closer than nine.

Sobataka’s driving and-one right down the lane made it 56-42 with four minutes left and surprised everyone in the gym, including herself.

“I’ve never had a feeling like that before,” she said. “I think it was because I’ve never wanted to win as badly as I wanted to win this game.”

When Daterria Connor hit a shot that cut West’s lead to 56-47 with three minutes left, Salisbury trailed by single digits, but a creative floater by Hall moved the lead back to 11.

Patreece Lattimore made a hustling steal for the Hornets with 1:37 remaining, but her layup that would’ve cut West’s lead to eight wouldn’t fall — and that was the Hornets’ last gasp.

“We definitely played the game we wanted to play,” said Sobataka, who made zero turnovers in 32 minutes. “We played under control. We played defense. We made the extra pass.”

Blaire, East’s Karleigh Wike and Davie’s Amy Steller — the top three scorers — joined Hall, Dixon and Steele on the all-tourney team.

SALISBURY (48) — B. Blaire 27, A. Blaire 6, Lattimore 5, Caldwell 4, Connor 4, Usry 1, Harris 1, Harmon .

WEST ROWAN (62) — Dixon 18, Steele 17, Sobataka 13, Hall 12, S. Miller 2, Q. Miller.

Salisbury 13 10 11 14 — 48
W. Rowan 12 19 16 15 — 62

Comments

Comments closed.

Crime

Blotter: Sept. 19

Coronavirus

Kannapolis brewery linked to eight COVID-19 positives

Elections

Local Democrats call to ‘turn the state blue’ during virtual office reopening

Education

Funding flat, enrollment down slightly for Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Education

Catawba gets high marks in U.S. News and World rankings for fifth year

Business

China Grove soap store sets sights on expansion into Kannapolis

News

Charlotte, UNC game canceled after 49ers place players in quarantine

Crime

Blotter: Sept. 18

Coronavirus

County sees ninth COVID-19 death this week, more than 30 cases reported

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper announces schools can move K-5 to plan A; school board vote needed locally

Local

Wet weather brings crashes, traffic to standstill on interstate

Crime

Salisbury man victim of Facebook scam, duped out of $2,000

Crime

Two charged after fight outside Salisbury home

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools ships out thousands of old devices for refurbishing

Education

Caught in the infodemic: NC school policies frustrated by scientific challenges

East Spencer

East Spencer to hold community day, provide free food, supplies

Education

Shoutouts

Landis

Landis officials provide plan for COVID-19 funds, discuss town’s financial position

Education

Blattner brought technology into schools before it was cool

Education

State has slight decline in SAT scores

Local

New environmental specialists begin work on backlog soil evaluations

Local

Friends, colleagues say Seay left his mark on Rowan judicial system

Elections

Rep. Howard says ‘still work to be done’ as she seeks 17th term in House

Nation/World

Trump disputes health officials, sees mass vaccinations soon