LANDIS — It took until the closing seconds, but South Rowan’s Qwantarius Rhyne finally got the memo.
The junior guard spent much of Wednesday’s 51-49 non-conference victory against visiting Salisbury stuck on the frozen food aisle. When he wasn’t there, coach Bryan Withers had him chained to the Raiders’ bench.
“I was on him pretty tough today because he wasn’t playing well,” Withers said after South (6-8) rallied for its second win in its past three outings. “He wasn’t feeling well. But our rule is if you come on the floor, you’re not sick.”
Rhyne made up for a less-than-spectacular evening when he stuck the game-winning shot with about three seconds to play.
“I just wanted to get open and get a good shot,” Rhyne explained after snagging an offensive rebound and hitting a short, fadeawy jump shot from the left side. “I just crashed the boards and made it happen.”
Salisbury’s fate was sealed with a miss when sophomore Corban Usry’s 20-foot jumper from the right corner rattled off the back side of the rim as time expired.
“When they passed it to me, I knew I had to get a shot off,” Usry said. “It felt good when it left my hands. It just didn’t go down.”
Usry had tied the score 49-49 when he penetrated the lane for a layup with 36 seconds remaining.
“Coach (Jason Causby) told us to drive the ball and there it was in my hands,” Usry said after the Hornets (7-6) absorbed their fourth loss in five games. “I was either going to draw the foul or make the shot.”
Salisbury — which dropped a 60-41 decision to South on Dec. 26 — led for much of the first half and carried a 31-25 edge into its locker room after DeShawn Troutman scored on a last-minute floater. South opened the second half with an 8-0 spurt and went ahed when senior Shawn Spry converted a pair of free throws. Teammate Christian Holbrook’s 3-pointer helped the Raiders knot the score 38-38 after three periods.
“They came out with really good intensity and jumped on us,” Spry said after tossing in a game-high 21 points. “We had to dig deep for this one. They weren’t gonna come here and give it to us.”
The decisive sequence began when South inbounded the ball from midcourt with 10.9 seconds to play.
“We called timeout and I told them, ‘This is how you’re going to win it right now,’” Withers indicated. “I trust my guys and know what they can do. All they need is the confidence to execute it.”
Spry received an inbounds pass and punctured the lane, only to draw two Salisbury defenders. His shot appeared forced, but hit off the rim and deflected to the left side. “I was already in the air so I had to throw something at the rim,” Spry said.
Rhyne alertly grabbed the rebound and mustered a soft shot that straightened the net, setting off a premature celebration. Salisbury immediate called a timeout with 2.7 seconds on the clock.
“I made a shot against Carson last year with about a second left,” Rhyne said after the pulsating win. “I thought I’d won the game. But they put four seconds on the clock and they ended up winning.”
Not this time. Salisbury went for a home run play on the ensuing inbounds pass, only to have the ball deflected out of bounds near the scorer’s table. With 1.8 seconds to go, Usry took a long throw-in and uncorked a shot from beyond the three-point line.
“We took what the defense gave us,” Causby said. “We played and we played together. I knew at the time that it was our best shot for the win.”
Withers, for one, felt relieved when the shot misfired. “They were better in the first half, but I think we allowed a lot of it,” he said. “We gave up three layups because we weren’t communicating on who was guarding who. We were trying to make plays, just not executing them.”
By the time they rolled the closing credits, it was Rhyne’s name that stood out — even if Withers wasn’t sure he’d come through.
“Sitting on that bench opens the ears pretty good,” Withers said. “He’s a good player, but I expect him to be good every day. And yeah, he likes to take that last shot.”
SALISBURY (49) — Troutman 15, Usry 12, Fazia 6, Alexander 5, Davis 3, Brown 2, Rayner 2, Canipe 2, Petty 2.
SOUTH ROWAN (51) — Spry 21, Graham-Wesley 9, Hill 7, Rhyne 7, Holbrook 6, Goldston 1, Wilder, Stewart, Childers.
Salisbury 13 18 7 11 — 49
S. Rowan 7 18 13 13 — 51