Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 16, 2013
THOMASVILLE — Salisbury’s boys may or may not be a contender for next week’s CCC tournament title, but they presented a strong closing argument Friday night.
The glow-in-the-dark Hornets finished their regular season by finishing off host East Davidson, 61-47 — earning their fifth conference win in six games.
“I knew it was going to take a certain measure of success to get us going,” coach Jason Causby said after SHS (9-15, 5-5) finished in a three-way tie for second place. “Luckily, we’ve caught fire. I would have preferred it to happen a little earlier in the season, but better late than never.”
Two-and-a-half weeks ago Salisbury was disorganized, discouraged and in danger of finishing last in the league standings. A narrow loss to East (8-15, 5-5) on Jan. 29 left them winless in four conference matches and 10 games below .500.
“Yeah, but (Causby) kept on pushing us,” senior guard Buster Hillie explained. “He told us it was time to get into playoff mode. He knew what we had to do and finally, we’re buying into it as one.”
Causby must have delivered the phrase that pays because the Hornets responded in grand fashion. Last night’s victory was their third straight and put them in prime position to gain a 2A state playoff berth. “We were frustrated because we knew we were way better than the product we were putting on the floor,” the eighth-year coach said.
Rugged senior Keion Adams likened the team’s turnaround to a dysfunctional family that learns to appreciate each other.
“Instead of being called a team, we should be called a family,” he said. “We’ve got a feel for each other that wasn’t there earlier in the year. Now we do. When it all comes together like this, it’s always a good feeling.”
East coach Matt Jacobs indicated Salisbury could be a dangerous team in the upcoming tournament, but added, “Everybody in this league is scary to play. There are no easy outs. But Salisbury is playing well, playing with a purpose. Coach Causby has them ready to take off.”
SHS taxied down the runway in the first half, then achieved liftoff in the third and fourth quarters. Corban Usry’s eight-foot jumper gave the Hornets an early 15-7 lead before ED regrouped in the second period and grabbed a 24-21 halftime edge on a late putback by Cody Bowers.
The game’s most pivotal moments came early in the second half. On Salisbury’s first possession Adams flipped a waist-high pass to Hillie, who promptly knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer from the right side.
“I was in the right spot at the right time and Keion found me,” Hillie said.
Forty seconds later SHS took the lead for good when freshman Deshawn Troutman beamed in a 3-ball from the left side to make it 27-26.
“Let’s face it,” Causby said. “Those two threes got us the separation we needed. After that we ratcheted down the defense and offensively we had a lot more ball movement. We concentrated on getting the ball where it was supposed to be.”
Adams was Salisbury’s high scorer for the second straight game, finishing with 14 points. He made three baskets in the final quarter, including a stickback that gave the Hornets a 46-36 lead and a last-minute runaway layup that put them up 13.
“Keion is very mature,” Causby said. “He chooses to not show that sometimes. But at the end of the day, I know this really means something to him. He and the other seniors — Buster and Tyler (Petty) — are really stepping up for us.”
Unlike the game with East in January, Salisbury wasn’t about to let this one slip away.
“Thoughout the season, and before our little run, we always let teams come back in the second half,” Adams said. “Causby told us to keep our foot on the gas pedal tonight. But we knew losing was not an option.”
East found out the hard way. “We never got into any rhythm,” said Jacobs, whose team split with each CCC opponent this winter. “I’m not sure how we were winning at halftime. They defended us well. When a hot team does that, nothing comes easy.”
Hillie (12), freshman Donnell Alexander (11) and Troutman (11) also scored in double figures for SHS.
SALISBURY (61) — Adams 14, Hillie 12, Alexander 12, Troutman 11, T.Petty 8, Usry 2, J.Petty 2, Brown, Burgess.
EAST DAVIDSON (47) — Johnson 14, Davis 8, Shetley 6, Chaney 6, Booze 5, Craven 4, Bowers 2, Grizzell 2.
Salisbury 15 6 17 23 — 61
E. Davidson 11 13 8 15 — 47