Salisbury boys defeat North Rowan again

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, January 6, 2018

By David Shaw

SALISBURY — The last thing Salisbury’s boys basketball team needed Saturday night was another chemistry test.

But the Hornets found themselves taking — and passing — a toilsome mid-term at Catawba’s Goodman Gym, where they rallied in the last five minutes and gained a 57-50 non-conference win against rival North Rowan.

“I like games like this,” coach Bryan Withers said with a smile, after Salisbury (12-1) played its fourth straight close game. “It gives us all kinds of situations. I don’t know of another team that’s had to face the situations we’ve had to, but we’re winning and getting better because of it.”

In a battle of first-place teams, Salisbury overcame a five-point, fourth-quarter deficit and beat North (8-4) for the second time in eight days. The victory wasn’t cemented until junior Cameron Gill made both ends of a one-and-one with 31.7 seconds remaining and teammate Oshaun Robinson turned an offensive-zone steal into a decisive layup with 14 seconds to play.

“We worked for this one,” Robinson said after scoring six of his game-high 16 point in the final four minutes. “The Carson game (last Saturday) was our biggest comeback of the year, so what’s a five-point lead? We knew we could pull it out.”

North used a frantic scoring spree to erase what had been a 31-15 Salisbury lead just before halftime. The Cavs played with renewed vigor and energy in the second half, only to be undone once again by careless ball-handling and poor free-throw shooting.

“They were all self-inflicted wounds,” said first-year North coach Martin Unger. “Again, the free throws (10-for-27) and turnovers (21) hurt us most, especially down the stretch. That was frustrating, trying to finish, but we’re a young ball club and we’ve got to have games like this in order to grow and get better.”

The Cavs opened the second half with 13 unanswered points, held Salisbury scoreless for nearly six minutes and pulled within 31-30 when Kendrell Goodes banked home an eight-foot shot from inside the lane. North took its first lead of the night on Derrick Page’s 3-pointer just 17 seconds into the final period.

“It was a tough fourth quarter for us,” Gill said. “We needed everything we could get.”

Salisbury’s troubles were amplified moments later when North’s Dayjuwon Cooke gained a step down the lane, hit a layup and converted an ensuing free throw that pushed the Cavs up, 44-39, with 5:32 to go.

“In the first half, I thought our patience on offense was unbelievable,” Withers said. “I thought our man-to-man defense was absolutely the best its been all year. But after halftime, we couldn’t score. We tried to do too many individual things.”

Withers realized an adjustment was needed and signaled for an immediate timeout.

“I said to them, ‘Five points hasn’t been able to hold us down all year,'” he said. “‘So let’s not get our heads down, let’s get shots and play defense and we’re gonna win.’ They believed it and came out and made plays.”

It must have been the phrase-that-pays because Salisbury responded with an energetic finish. The Hornets tied the score on Trell Baker’s jumper with 2:26 remaining and regained the lead when Gill turned a steal into a pair of free throws and a 49-47 advantage. SHS then provided a convincing closing argument, finishing with an 8-2 scoring spree initiated by 6-foot-5 Bill Fisher’s turn-around jump shot from the left side.

“We were doing good things,” said Robinson. “All the things we needed to do to win the game. We started out playing great defense and brought it back in the fourth quarter.”

Page finished with 13 points to lead North. Teammates Quint Smith, Brevin Goodlett and Cooke added 10 apiece. Fisher netted eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter for Salisbury.

“We had dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” said Unger. “We used a lot of energy to get back in the game and take it over. That fatigue set in and at the end, we kind of lost it mentally, but that’s part of growing up. I love playing games like this, but we’ve got to learn how to finish.”

NOTES: Robinson scored seven points during Salisbury’s 14-0 run in the opening quarter, but North’s phone-booth defense limited the Hornets to one basket in the third period. … Both teams return to league play this week. North visits North Stanly in a YVC makeup game on Monday. Salisbury busses to Thomasville for a CCC match on Tuesday.

SALISBURY (57) —Robinson 16, Fisher 14, Davis 8, Baker 6, Russell 4, Gill 4, Moss 3, Kesler 2, Bailey, Rogers.

NORTH ROWAN (50) —Page 13, Cooke 10, Smith 10, Goodlett 10, Goodes 3, McCombs 3, Broaddus 1, Clement, Colson.

Salisbury            20   11    4   22 — 57

North Rowan     8     9   17   16 — 50