SALISBURY — It won’t register seismically, but Tuesday’s victory may have signaled a return to form for the Salisbury girls basketball team.
Of course, the Hornets of old would have put this one away early. Instead, a grinding 63-57 CCC win over visiting East Davidson indicated simply that SHS can’t be ignored.
“We’re turning things around,” junior Brielle Blaire said. “It’s always been here. We just had to find it and start playing together.”
Salisbury (10-8, 2-2) found enough fortitude to garner its third straight win and tighten the congested conference standings.
“I told the ladies tonight this was a very important game,” said winning coach Tony Hillian. “I was gonna need their energy and intensity. And they gave that to me.”
Particularly on defense. Salisbury forced 14 first-half turnovers and was able to take a 27-21 halftime lead.
“They’re still Salisbury — and they’re still a good club,” East coach Don Corry said after the Golden Eagles (11-5 overall) squared their league record at 2-2. “But everyone in our conference can surprise you. It’s still up in the air.”
The Hornets opened the second half with some costly, careless offense. They turned the ball over on their fist four possessions — all within the first minute-and-a-half — and watched ED tie the score 27-27 on Lori Morgan’s layup.
“There was concern,” senior Daterria Connor said after contributing 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. “We couldn’t have any more turnovers like that.”
Connor helped the Hornets surge back in front and her three-point play, following an offensive rebound with 3.1 seconds remaining in the third quarter, lifted Salisbury to a 43-36 lead entering the final period.
That’s when Blaire took over. The six-footer was unstoppable in the fourth quarter, muscling her way for layups, popping short jumpers and igniting a fire that’s been conspicuously absent in the Hornets’ recent play. Her three-point play with 1:22 remaining gave them a 60-52 edge.
“Well, we had to clean it up,” Blaire said after finishing with 28 points and 13 rebounds. “But after that (three-point play) I think we all felt we had it.”
All of which left Hillian sporting a smile that could light up Times Square.
“Fantastic. Phenomenal. Great,” he said, spewing adjectives like fourth-graders recite multiplication tables. “When she puts her mind to it, Brielle can do it all. Now it’s rubbing off on the rest of the team. We played a really good game tonight, and it started with her.”
EAST DAVIDSON (57) — Plummer 18, Hallman 11, Morgan 8, Welborn 8, Jones 6, Isom 4, Grimsley 2.
SALISBURY (63) — B.Blaire 28, Connor 15, Caldwell 6, A.Blaire 6, Harris 3, Harmon 3, Usry 2, Lattimore.
E. Davidson 11 10 15 21 — 57
Salisbury 15 12 16 20 — 63
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