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Unbeaten Bulls down South Rowan girls

By David Shaw

sports@salisburypost.com

LANDIS —South Rowan’s girls basketball team treated coach John Davis to a smooth, mid-flight experience Friday night. Too bad it struggled with its takeoff and landing.

The Raiders finished their 61-42 SPC loss to visiting Hickory Ridge the same way they started it — ice cold from the field.

“They’re a different level basketball team,” Davis said after South (4-5, 2-4) fell for the fifth time in its last six games. “They’re very well-coached, they’re athletic, they’re big. They’ve got everything you look for and are a real contender for the 3A state title.”

For now, the Ragin’ Bulls (9-0, 6-0) occupy the top floor in the conference standings. They owned the opening five minutes against South, racing to a 14-0 lead while the Raiders missed their first eight field goal attempts.

“They picked us up and we started panicking,” sophomore Janiya Downs said after netting 13 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking eight shots. “That’s when we realized we had to start playing our game.”

They certainly did. By the time Downs drained her second 3-pointer — a rainbow from left side — South had crept within 16-15 early in the second quarter.

“It felt really good to work as a team like that,” teammate Tziah Harden said. “We made smart passes, got a lot of fast breaks, lots of rebounds and lots of steals.”

South never led, but drew even by connecting on three consecutive long balls in the third period. Junior Brooke Lowery hit a three from the left corner to trigger the flurry, then buried another from the right side seconds later. And when Kiera McClary banked in a 3-pointer from the right flank, the Raiders had climbed all the way back to tie the score 33-33 with 5:32 remaining in the third quarter.

“I don’t know what they shot, but it had to be a high percentage,” said winning coach Tolonda Simmons. “It’s never easy coming up here. It felt like both teams came ready to play.”

South’s final basket came with 16 seconds to play in the third period, when Harden converted a 12-foot set shot that pulled the Raiders within 40-38. They were limited to four free throws in the fourth quarter.

“We were down in the fourth quarter. We were tired,” Davis explained. “They kept running a lot of bodies in and out and kept playing a fast-paced game. You wear down a little bit.”

Hickory Ridge salted the game away by hitting four 3-pointers in the final period, three of them by guard Jiera Shears. The junior scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and fueled the Bulls’ 15-1 finishing kick. She finished with a game-high 26 points and sank eight of 10 free throws.

“I just had to keep my focus, keep my head,” Shears said. “I put up shots all the time. Tonight I felt confident and didn’t rush anything. I knew I could make them.”

Harden paced the Raiders with 15 points and is now averaging 13.8 points-per-game. She added 10 rebounds and five steals.

“We did all we could do,” she concluded. “We battled with them until the end when we just got tired. I hope we can do it again next time.”

HICKORY RIDGE (61) — Ji. Shears 26, Daniel 11, Wagner 8, Smith 5, Sprinkle 5, Ja. Shears 3, Neal 2, Jones 1.

SOUTH ROWAN (42) — Harden 15, Downs 13, McClary 6, Lowery 6, Corriher 2, Car. Carlton, Spratt, Cam. Carlton, Shell.

 

Hickory Ridge         14    15    11    21 — 61

South Rowan            7    17     14    4 — 42

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