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Salisbury boys hot in CCC tournament opener against West Davidson

By David Shaw
sports@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The message was clear Monday night: if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the Salisbury boys basketball team’s kitchen.

The Hornets were cooking with gas in their CCC tournament opener, scoring the game’s first 14 points and an eye-popping 59 in the second half of a 95-68 rout of visiting West Davidson.

“We strung together some good plays,” coach Bryan Withers said. “We haven’t started games well all year. I told the first group that went in, ‘I’m giving you six points. If they get up six, you guys are out.’ I don’t know if I saw 14-0 coming, but I was happy about it. We couldn’t wait on anybody tonight.”

They didn’t have to. Third-seeded Salisbury (17-7) knocked down four 3-pointers and raced to a double-digit lead in the first three-and-a-half minutes. “We had a long talk before we came out here,” senior guard Raheim Walker said. “It was all about being ready and picking up our pace early.”

By winning for the ninth time in its last 11 games, Salisbury pushes into Thursday’s tourney semifinals against No. 2 seed Lexington at North Davidson High School. The Hornets were paced by senior Cam Gill, the whippet-quick guard who scored 12 of his career-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.

“I could do whatever I wanted to do,” he said with a broad smile. “Everything opened up and they were giving me the lane. This was really one of our best games.”

West Davidson (12-12) suffered its third straight loss and will sit out the rest of the tournament. The Dragons received 21 points from sophomore Macon Stovall and rallied within 36-31 when senior Drew Wright converted a pair of free throws with one second remaining in the first half.

“We were giving up some easy points,” said Withers. “We weren’t getting back on defense, which is very correctable. In the second half, our job was to stay in front of people, make them shoot over us and keep a hand in their face. If they make them, they make them.”

Salisbury made more than enough. The Hornets used an 11-0 run and surged in front, 51-36, when Gill snagged an offensive rebound and hit a stickback with 4:52 remaining in the third period. A couple of 3-pointers by freshman Cam Stout helped maintain the margin until the fourth quarter, when Gill turned the game into a one-man sideshow.

“I remember thinking at halftime, they shouldn’t be keeping up with us,” Gill said. “Our attitude became, let’s go ahead and run them out of the gym.”

Gill benefited from the accurate, outside shooting of Walker (17 points) and Stout (14).

“They had to guard our shooters because we were making shots,” said Withers. “That’s why the lane opened up for Cam. We’ve been telling him all year to trust those guys to make a few shots instead of driving in there when it’s all congested. He did a good job of distributing the ball, making the shooters shoot and driving in there when it opened up.”

Salisbury closed the game with a 17-4 finishing kick and opened its biggest lead when Tre Carlton threaded a 3-ball from the left side in the final minute.

“It’s starting to get late in the season,” Withers concluded. “We can’t say we’re inexperienced anymore. Everybody starting to get healthy and we get (Zay) Kesler back Thursday. We’re just full of confidence and ready to play.”

NOTES: Kesler, a junior named to the Sam Moir Classic all-tournament team, returns from a six-game suspension. … Lexington (15-9) advanced with a 58-53 first-round win against Central Davidson.

WEST DAVIDSON (68) — Stovall 21, Wright 16, Measmer 10, Floyd 9, Bennett 6, Hamblin 6, Tedder, Charleston.

SALISBURY (95) — Gill 24, R.Walker 17, Stout 14, Chawlk 10, B.Fisher 9, Norman 8, Witherspoon 5, Carlton 3, Brown 2, J.Walker 2, Alford 1, Smith, White, J.Fisher.

W. Davidson        9   22   21   16 — 68

Salisbury             22   14   31   28 — 95

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