SALISBURY — Both teams lost draining league games Tuesday, so Wednesday’s non-conference affair was going to be won by the team excited about playing.
That team was South Rowan. The Raiders led the final 26 minutes and easily handled Salisbury 58-41 in the Hornets’ gym. South (10-8) was able to glean ample motivation from its 62-54 loss to the Hornets in the Sam Moir tournament.
“Since that loss, I’ve been telling people we’d get revenge when we went to Salisbury,” said South forward Tvadis Wesley, who began his high school career at Salisbury. “We got defensive stops, turned up our offense, and got the job done.”
While the explosive Wesley was good, Shawn Spry, a skilled, crafty, shaggy-haired 5-foot-11 guard, was even better. The year-round gym rat went 6-for-6 at the foul line, drilled two 3s and got to the rim often enough to score 18 points.
“When we lost to Salisbury in the Christmas tournament, it was a game we felt like should have been a win for us,” Spry said. “We needed to prove something, and our intensity was a whole lot better tonight.”
South’s first-year coach Bryan Withers was one of the best players in Salisbury history in the 1980s, but he downplayed his return to his old gym.
“Just another game,” he said with a smile. “The only thing I was concerned with was we needed to get a win after a tough loss to (NPC-leading) Statesville on Tuesday.”
Salisbury (4-12) fell in heartbreaking fashion to CCC rival Lexington on Tuesday for its seventh straight loss, so coach Jason Causby knew it might be a difficult night.
“Lexington is a huge rival for us, so it was going to be tough to come back and play South even if we’d beaten Lexington,” Causby said. “Losing to Lexington at the buzzer, that had to take something out of us, and we knew this would be a real character test. But at the same time, I don’t want to take anything away from South. They were very well-prepared, they executed, and they played as well as I’ve seen a South team play in a long time.”
Tyler Petty’s work inside kept the Hornets in the game for a while. He finished with 15 points and eight rebounds and he scored Salisbury’s first six.
A 3-pointer by Eric Tyler broke a 6-6 tie and put South ahead to stay. The Hornets never solved South’s zone defense, and by halftime, the Raiders’ lead was 28-16.
“We were upset that we lost in the Christmas tournament, so we had something to play for,” Withers said. “And we’ve gotten better defensively by adding Lavon Hill’s size.”
The Hornets couldn’t mount a charge in the second half, and it was all over after Spry kissed an impossible shot off the glass as he sprawled to the floor to make it 34-20 in the third quarter.
“South ran the floor a lot better and defended the post tougher than they did in the Christmas tournament,” Petty said. “But I still think that what happened tonight was more about us than them. Lexington was exhausting, and we’re just struggling right now.”
SOUTH (58) — Spry 18, Wesley 10, Rhyne 8, Tyler 7, Medlin 5, Goldston 4, Hill 3, Holbrook 2, Corriher 1, Ouellette.
SALISBURY (41) — T. Petty 15, Troutman 5, Brown 4, Adams 4, Hillie 3, Usry 3, Alexander 2, J. Petty 2, Burges 2, Fazia 1, Yang,
South Rowan 11 17 15 15 — 58
Salisbury 8 8 10 15 — 41
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