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Prep girls basketball: South girls win a big one

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — South Rowan girls basketball coach John Davis always reminds his players to shoot if they’re open, and that applies to everyone.
He’s got faith in every girl he puts on the floor.
South led Robinson by a single point in a dogfight, late in the third quarter, when the Raiders swung the ball around the perimeter to tiny guard Camden Carlton. She hadn’t made a field goal all season, and this was South’s 10th game.
“I was wide open, and Coach wants us to shoot if we are,” a thrilled Carlton said. “I didn’t let anything get into my head, and I just knocked the shot down. It was my biggest moment of the season — the biggest moment of my career.”
It was the shot that put South on the way to a 45-39 South Piedmont Conference victory.
South got a stop after Carlton’s 3-pointer, Davis called for one last shot before the end of the third quarter, and his team executed. Janiya Downs drove and made a tumbling layup as she was banged to the floor. She got up wincing and holding her arm, but the Raiders led by six.
“I got pretty bruised up pretty good tonight,” Down said.
Then South controlled the fourth quarter, leading by as many as a dozen points against an athletic opponent.
Downs, a sophomore, turned in a phenomenal game — 27 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and six blocked shots.
“We’re aware of her and we tried to prepare for her,” Robinson coach Justin Thomas said. “But she always plays the game at her speed. She doesn’t get in a hurry. Halfcourt or transition, she always gets what she wants.”
The 5-foot-10 Downs owned the game at both ends, as South’s ballhandler on offense and as a shot-blocker/rebounder on the defensive end. She yanked down 11 defensive boards, and that was the key stat in the game.
“Robinson likes to shoot the 3-pointer, and then they go hard after offensive boards,” Davis said. “But we did a really nice job rebounding tonight. Everyone we put in there fought on the glass and played well. Janiya ended a lot of their possessions.”
It was a defensive struggle in the first half. South (5-5, 3-4 SPC) took a 19-17 lead to the break behind 11 points by Downs.
Robinson (4-4, 3-4 SPC) got a brisk start in the second half, and South slid behind 22-19. But Downs whipped a no-look pass over her shoulder to Keara McClary for a layup and Riley Corriher (six assists) got a transition bucket, and the Raiders pushed back in front.
The Raiders were clinging to a 27-26 lead when Carlton stroked her surprise 3-ball.
“We were all proud of her for being able to make a shot like that,” Downs said. “That was a game-changer, no doubt. That’s what got us all going.”
Terrific outside shooting by freshman Jayda Glass (18 points, four 3-pointers) kept Robinson close most of the night, but Downs was energized in the fourth quarter, blocking shots repeatedly. Most of her blocks came against Robinson’s talented sophomore point guard Jada McMillan.
“Those are shots you have to block,” Downs said. “Because when that girl shoots, they’re going in.”
South achieved its biggest lead at 40-28 with 3:04 remaining when Tazah “Z” Hardin got a stick-back, and Downs made enough free throws to hold off a late flurry by Glass and McMillan.
“This was a really good win for us,” Davis said.
It was a tough loss for Robinson.
“There are some games in this league we know we’re likely to lose and there are some games we’re very likely to win,” Thomas said. “This was one of those 50/50 games that can go either way, but South just flat beat us. We didn’t rebound and we didn’t have the same energy that they did.”

ROBINSON (39) — Jayda Glass 18, McMillan 13, Boulware 4, Koerner 2, Jordan 2.
SOUTH ROWAN (45) — Downs 27, Hardin 5, Arnott 4, Cam. Carlton 3, McClary 2, Corriher 2, Spratt 2, Car. Carlton, Shell, Wagner, Rollins, Lowery.

Robinson 6 11 9 13 — 39
S. Rowan 7 12 13 13 — 45

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