Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 5, 2013

GRANITE QUARRY — After building a big lead early, the Salisbury Hornets had to hang on for dear life down the stretch at East Rowan Wednesday night.
The Hornets escaped the cross-county battle, 54-52 when a Sam Wyrick three pointer bounced off the rim in the final seconds.
“It was a good shot, a wide open shot, “ Mustang coach Trey Ledbetter said. “Donte (Means) drove it, kicked it out perfect to Sam but it didn’t fall.”
The Hornets (4-1) sprinted to a 16-2 lead right out of the gate and still led 29-20 at the half, thanks to strong inside play from DJ Alexander and Corban Usry. East (2-2) battled to within one at 38-37 in the third period behind Seth Wyrick and Harrison Bell and it stayed close until midway in the fourth quarter. Alexander scored two of his game high 22 on a baseline drive to make it 49-40 with 5:18 left as Salisbury seemed in good shape.
But the Mustangs had one more surge left to provde plenty of dramatics down the final stretch. Junior guard Austin Wyse sank a three pointer then Means made an and-one layup and foul shot. Wyse then converted another three point play with a drive and Seth Wyrick hit a short scoop in the lane.
Suddenly the score was 52-52 with 2:45 left it was time for the defenses to take over for both sides.
Salisbury was called for a charge, East threw it away, the Hornets walked, East missed a three and Alexander snatched the rebound. His two free throws at :34 proved to be the game winner but one more stance was required.
Hornet coach Jason Causby’s defensive strategy was to use defensive star John Canipe to deny the ball to East sharpshooter Means. On the other side, Ledbetter had three timeouts and a plan to hold it for one shot.
“I would rather be lucky than good on any given night,” Causby said. “And we were lucky Wyrick did hit that three but our defense did the job.”
A near steal by Salisbury’s DeShawn Troutman against the East weave attack caused the Mustangs to call time and regroup with 16.1 seconds left. Means then worked the perimeter before driving inside and dishing to Wyrick on the right wing. He had an open look but the ball bounced high and was batted around in the lane by at least four players. By the time Salisbury’s MJ Rayner secured the rebound the horn had sounded.
“We are battle tested now” Causby said of his team after close wins on consecutive nights. “Now we have to work on the little things so we can start putting together some complete games.”
For Ledbetter, the ending was tense and exciting but he felt the game was really decided in the first half with the big Hornet surge early.
“They just wanted to win more than we did early,” he said. “We had no energy and until we decide to play a full 32 minutes these are the types of games we are going to have.”
Wyse had his best outing of the new season with 15 inclusing some clutch points in the final period. Seth Wyrick chipped in 12 but the Hornet defense held Means just seven points, well below his 16.0 average. Mustang forward Harrison Bell contributed nine points and a number of key rebounds off the bench
Meanwhile Salisbury’s Alexander, a 6-4 sophomore wing, had 22 to go with 23 the night before in an overtime win over South Iredell. He scored 11 of his points in the final quarter including five of six foul shots to lead the win. He also contributed 10 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
“I think I played good tonight,” Alexander said,” But I would like for us as a team to have a more complete game. We had a lot of turnovers and missed some free throws but we can fix that with practice.”
Usry was key in the big first half effort for Salisbury and finished with 11 points. Canipe had five points and six rebounds to go with his shutdown defensive effort. Troutman also had five and played strong defense from his guard slot.
Salisbury is back at home this Friday with a non-conference return match with North Wilkes.
East Rowan, coming off back to back close losses ,will be at home again this Friday in a key South Piedmont Conference batte against the Carson Cougars.
“We are close. We are getting there,” Ledbetter said. “We just have to start making the right decisions.
SALISBURY (54) — Alexander 22, Usry 11, Canipe 5, Troutman 5, Rayner 4, Davis 3, Fazia 2, Brown 2.
EAST ROWAN (52) — Wyse 15, Seth Wyrick 12, Bell 9, Means 7, Sam Wyrick 3, Caldwell 2, Love 2, Davis 2, Moses, Corpening, Soles.
Salisbury 16 13 11 14 — 54
E. Rowan 6 15 17 14 — 52