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Salisbury girls open Christmas tourney with win over Brown

By Marny Hendrick

sports@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The unbeaten Salisbury girls had to work hard for points but still managed to easily turn back A.L. Brown, 49-26, to open the 48th annual Dale’s/Sam Moir Christmas Classic, Thursday morning at Goodman Gym.

Perhaps the 9 a.m. start or the Christmas break were factors, but it was primarily a tight 2-3 zone by the Wonders that gave third-seeded Salisbury the most trouble. The Hornets (8-0) struggled at times to penetrate the zone, but still had enough firepower to lead from start to finish.

“Our offense was a little stagnant, but I was still pleased,” said Hornets’ head coach Lakai Brice. “It wasn’t our best game, but we finished strong and we scored when we had to score to bump the lead up.”

Sophomore guard Rachel McCullough served as the zone buster with a couple of 3-pointers to enable Salisbury to break out to a 7-0 lead that expanded to 26-13 by halftime. She finished with a team-high 12 points.

“McCullough scored 12 for us from outside that helped to open up that zone a bit,” Brice said. “Once she got going, it really helped us.”

The Hornets used their own  defensive pressure, led by guard Kyla Bryant on the outside and Jaleiah Gibson and Jamecia Huntley on the inside, to force numerous Wonders turnovers and control the boards. A Huntley lay-up in the first period opened an 11-2 lead for Salisbury, but the Wonders refused to let the game get out of hand in the first half, as Jaliah Simmons scored some key inside baskets.

McCullough’s 3-pointer pushed the Salisbury lead to 26-13 at halftime and the margin expanded to 21 points, midway in the third period at 35-14. Instead of folding, however, Brown closed the quarter on an 8-2 run on layups by Simmons and Jillian Brim, plus a 3-pointer by Alannah Green.

Any further comeback hopes by Brown were crushed as Huntley scored inside on a pair of put-backs, then senior Anayia Fulson buried a long 3-pointer to expand the advantage to 25 points.

Behind McCullough, Fulson, a 1000-point career scorer for the Hornets,  finished with 11 points and a half-dozen rebounds. Huntley added 10 points, followed by Gibson with 8.

The Wonders were led by Simmons with 12 points, the only player in double figures.

With the win, Salisbury moves into today’s semifinals at 3 p.m. — a battle of unbeaten county rivals. The Hornets face West Rowan (8-0), a big first-round winner over South Rowan. Brown (2-7) and South (2-7) will square off in a consolation game at 9:00 this morning.

A.L. BROWN (26) — J. Simmons 12, Green 3, Smoutherson 3, Campbell 2, Yow 2, Brim 2, Ward 2, Moore, Grant, C, Simmons.

SALISBURY (49) — McCullough 12, Fulson 11, Huntley 10, Gibson 8, Bryant 6, Mashore 2, McEntyre, Oats, Morgan, Bolder.

A.L. Brown       6     7     9     4 — 26

Salisbury         15   11    11   12 — 49

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