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Salisbury girls hold off Thomasville in CCC opener

By David Shaw
sports@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Instead of sprinting into the post-season, the Salisbury girls basketball team crawled Monday night.

At least, that’s what the scoreboard would have you believing about the Hornets’ 55-48 nod over visiting Thomasville in their Central Carolina Conference tournament opener.

“I believe we had a 26-point lead at one time,” coach Lakai Brice explained after top-seeded Salisbury (21-3) advanced to the tourney semifinals on Wednesday. “Then we let all of our reserves come in and get some playing time. That’s how it got close. Our plan was to get up early and then rest everyone for the next game.”

Salisbury will meet fourth-seeded West Davidson after imposing its will on Thomasville (5-18) for the better part of three quarters. The Hornets scored 11 unanswered points in the first quarter and mounted a 13-3 advantage — only to watch the Bulldogs close within 17-13 on a basket by 6-foot-1 junior Mahkayla Hart early in the second period.

“I guess knowing we were the No. 1 seed, we didn’t come out with enough energy,” said freshman Rachel McCullough, Salisbury’s leading scorer with 13 points. “We let them have hope and belief in themselves.”

That’s a dangerous thing to allow an eighth-seeded team to feel. Salisbury had already posted two lopsided victories over Thomasville this winter, winning by 29 and 37 points in regular-season matchups.

“We know,” said McCullough, who shot 3-for-7 from three-point range. “I’m just glad we got our mojo back and got our flow together.”

That happened in the second quarter, when a 14-0 scoring spree extended Salisbury’s lead to 34-15 on a short bank shot by senior Bryanna Troutman. McCullough drained a pair of long balls from the right side to fuel the flurry. When Troutman opened the second half with a three-point play and teammate Tacorra Robinson followed with an authoritative putback, the Hornets owned a 41-19 edge.

“Thomasville came out ready to play and we didn’t,” said Brice. “At halftime I reminded them about last year, when the same thing happened to us against Lexington. We came out playing around and lost focus. But tonight, when Rachel hit that big three, that got us rolling.”

SHS rolled all the way to the final quarter, when it’s second string was outscored 16-6 but still repelled Thomasville’s last charge. Now the semifinals loom for the regular-season champs.

“We have to go in mentally prepared,” McCullough warned. “Like it’s a state championship game. From now on, every game will be like that.”

NOTES: Anayia Fulson made seven of eight free throws and scored 12 points for Salisbury. Troutman shot 4-for-6 from the field and finished with 10 points and five rebounds. Guard Chantel Robinson led the Hornets with six rebounds. … Salisbury has won 11 of its last 12 games and owns a pair of 25-point wins against West Davidson (17-7) — a 62-47 first-round winner over South Rowan. The Dragons have won five straight.

THOMASVILLE (47) — Gainey 18, Hart 9, Lee 6, Little 6, Bellamy 4, Harris 2, Gales 2, Shaw, Nyll, Gladden, Wright.

SALISBURY (55) — McCullough 13, Fulson 12, Troutman 10, T.Robinson 6, C.Robinson 4, Gibson 4, Mashore 4, Brown 2, Glenn, Harrell, McEntyre, Oats, Horton, Evans.

Thomasville        10    9   12   16 — 47

Salisbury             16    20  13    6 — 55

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