Salisbury girls defense Downs, cruise by South Rowan

Published 1:20 am Saturday, February 16, 2019

By David Shaw

SALISBURY —Like a cat spying another mouse, the Salisbury girls basketball team played like it already knew the outcome Friday night.

The conference-champion Hornets jumped to an early 10-point lead against visiting South Rowan, extended it to 16 midway through the second quarter and rolled to a 65-37 win in their Central Carolina Conference regular-season finale.

“We have a really good team … when they all come to play, we can be very dangerous,” coach Lakai Brice said, shortly after Salisbury (20-3, 16-2) won its third straight game and improved to 9-0 at home this season. “I feel confident about this team going forward. They’ve been talking all year about winning a state championship, so I think that’s where their mindset is at.”

Top-seeded Salisbury has won 11 of its last 12 games and will open the conference tournament Monday at home against No. 8 Thomasville. South (13-11, 12-6) in coach Stacy Ellis’ first year, is slotted No. 5 and will open the tourney Monday at fourth-seeded West Davidson.

“We started out rough, out of the conference,” he said. “Once we got into conference, we played much better. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Salisbury was paced by forward Bryanna Troutman, a senior who scored 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked seven shots. Freshman teammate Rachel McCullough shot 5-for-10 from the field, hit a couple of 3-pointers and scored 15 points.

South received a quiet 18 points from senior guard Janiya Downs, the county’s leading scorer who was averaging 33 points per game. She remains a 100-watt bulb plugged into a 50-watt socket, but was well-defended by Salisbury ball hounds Anayia Fulson and Jinika Glenn.

Downs had trouble finding open shots, so she turned her attention to the glass. “I ended up just going for rebounds and putting the ball back up,” Downs explained.

The game was nearly six minutes old before Downs scored South’s first points — on a driving layup from the left side that made it 6-2. By the time McCullough stuck a 3-ball and converted a pair of free throws with 4:48 remaining in the half, Salisbury had opened a 19-3 lead.

“They wanted to slow the game down, but we wouldn’t let them,” said Troutman. “We followed the game plan and kept it at our pace.”

And kept Downs from wreaking her usual havoc.

“We threw multiple people at her,” Brice said. “Our job wasn’t to slow her down, but to contain her. Our emphasis the past couple weeks has been to execute our game plan. I think we did tonight.”

Salisbury stretched its margin to 41-20 on Fulson’s basket with three minutes to play in the third period. And when two Ja’kiya Brown free throws closed the scoring in the waning seconds, the Hornets owned a 28-point lead for the third time.

“Tonight was important,” Troutman concluded. “We all did our part. We’re a solid team and we’ve got some momentum for the playoffs.”

South Rowan (37) — Downs 18, Rymer 13, McGuire 2, Redmon 2, P. Chabala 1, Butler 1, Littlejohn, Harrington, A. Chabala.

Salisbury (65) — Troutman 18, McCullough 15, Fulson 13, T.Robinson 9, C.Robinson 4, Brown 4, Glenn 2, Gibson, Mashore, Harrell, McEntyre, Oats, Evans.

South Rowan      2   10   13   12 — 37

Salisbury            12   15   16   22 — 65