TYRO — After a run to the title game of last week’s Christmas tournament, the crowd at West Davidson was more than double Friday night from what it had been the first month of the season.
That bandwagon may be filling up quickly.
West scored the game’s first six points, built a 12-point halftime lead and held the ball nearly the entire fourth quarter for a rousing 56-44 victory over Salisbury on Crim Court in the Central Carolina Conference opener for both teams. After starting 0-7, the Dragons have won five of their last six and were clearly the more confident team Friday night.
“You’ve got to teach them basketball IQ, as you’re coaching them,” first-year West coach Derrick Stokes said. “They’re starting to understand.”
Salisbury coach Jason Causby, who saw his team dip to 4-8, was on the other end of the spectrum. “They’re really good, and we’re not,” Causby said. “The bottom line is, they outplayed us for 32 minutes.
“Customarily, we’re at a level everybody’s trying to catch up to. This is one of those years where we’re not.”
The changing of the guard, from days when Salisbury would bury West with its full-court pressure and overflowing athleticism, was obvious from the onset. Austin Teague, David Monk and Taylor Beck all scored in the paint, and the Dragons’ defense limited the Hornets’ opportunities. When Causby called a timeout with 6:30 left in the first quarter and West leading 6-0, the tone was clearly set.
West led 11-2, but the Hornets slowly worked their way back into it. Keion Adams converted a three-point play, then had a tip-in in transition to close the gap to 17-14 after one.
But the Dragons never let up. Zach Queen nailed a trey to open the second quarter, and his 3 late in the half gave West a little breathing room at 31-21. Teague bombed another triple from the corner at the buzzer, sending the home team to the locker room with a 36-24 pad and a world of momentum. That carried over into the third quarter, when West used a 10-0 run — keyed by consecutive 3-balls from Teague and Queen — to build a 46-26 advantage.
Leading 51-32 to start the fourth quarter, West missed two quick, ill-advised shots and turned it over in the backcourt in the first 50 seconds. That allowed Salisbury to get within 51-36 with 7:10 left to play, and prompted Stokes to call a timeout.
“I said, ‘Guys, we’ve got enough points to win,’” Stokes explained. “I told them we were going to be the disciplined ballteam here, step to every pass, we’re gonna hold the ball and they’re gonna give us wide-open layups. And we’re gonna finish those wide-open layups. Well, they listened to everything but that last part.”
Causby was impressed with the Dragons’ new look.
“Hopefully, we can take something away from what we saw them do,” he said. “Which is play together, and be disciplined. I’m not gonna offer any excuses, other than we just got flat-out outplayed.”
Teague led the Dragons (1-0, 5-8) with 21 points, Queen added 13 and Monk 12. Donnell Alexander paced the Hornets with 10 points.
Tony Hillian made his debut as Salisbury girls coach on Friday and came away with a 62-40 win.
Hillian replaced Doug Faison, who resigned during the Moir Christmas Classic. Hillian’s first game was an easy one.
For West to beat Salisbury, nearly everything would have to go right.Almost everything did, except for the ball going in the basket.The Dragons missed a bushel of layups and went 6-for-18 from the free throw line.
Salisbury seemed disinterested for long stretches, but Brielle Blaire poured in 24 points and the Hornets used a 13-2 run in the third quarter to build a little breathing room.
Hillian was pleased with the way the Hornets played, including a 14-4 run to open the game.
“That was a key,” Hillian said. “That’s what we wanted to do, come in and get off to a fast pace. Get in our full-court press, and transition basketball.”
Blaire scored nine points in the first quarter to help the visitors build a 16-6 lead after one. West got within 31-21.But the Hornets took over from there, using dominating the offensive glass and using several second-chance baskets to surge back ahead. Brianna Caldwell nailed a 3 from the corner to cap off an 11-0 spurt, and the Dragons never threatened again.
SALISBURY (44) — Alexander 10, Fazia 9, Usry 8, Adams 7, Troutman 6, Brown 2, Burgess 2.
WEST DAVIDSON (56) — Teague 21, Queen 13, Monk 12, Beck 5, Grooms 5.
Salisbury 14 10 8 12 — 44
W. Davidson 17 19 15 5 — 56
SALISBURY (62) — B. Blaire 24, Harris 8, A. Blaire 7, Caldwell 7, Harmon 6, Usry 4, Connor 2, Wolfe 2, Riche 2.
WEST DAVIDSON (40) — Herman 23, Huthcinson 5, Norman 5, Rivas 4, Middleton 2, Hughes 1.
Salisbury 16 13 18 15 — 62
W. Davidson 6 12 11 11 — 40
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