High school basketball: Salisbury girls take over first place

Published 12:01 am Sunday, January 16, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Salisbury’s girls basketball team was close to perfect the first five minutes of the second half, and a blistering 20-0 run keyed a 66-42 victory against rival North Rowan on Saturday afternoon in a crowded SHS gym.

That wicked spurt turned a quiet 10-point lead into a noisy 30-point advantage in a hurry.

Salisbury (12-1, 4-0) took over first place in the 1A/2A Central Carolina Conference by handing North (11-4, 5-1) its first league loss.

“I appealed to our girls’ sense of pride at halftime,” Salisbury head coach Lakai Brice said. “We came out and played defense the way we’re capable of playing it, and that created a lot of transition offense and layups.”

Ranked second in 2A West, The Hornets (11-1, hadn’t played neighbor North Rowan in a little over two years, so anticipation was high for a Saturday afternoon showdown between the old rivals.

Salisbury has so much experience that five girls who played against the Cavaliers in January 2020 made up Saturday’s starting lineup. North, which starts three sophomores, had only two girls, senior Hannah Wilkerson and junior Chloee Stoner, who ever had been on the floor against the Hornets.

Junior Kyla Bryant (23 points), senior Rachel McCullough (19) and junior Jamecia Huntley (13) led Salisbury’s scoring on Saturday, just as they did against North two seasons ago.

Wilkerson scored 17 for the Cavaliers despite early foul trouble. Bailee Goodlett, a lightning-quick sophomore who came in as the county’s leading scorer, made several spectacular floaters, but was held to 12 points.

“Wilkerson and Goodlett are great players,” Brice said. “But we did a good job on them. We wanted to make them shoot it and not beat us with the drive, and for the most part, we accomplished that. We had their offense pushed way out, and we’ve got shotblockers when teams do get inside. Haley Dalton had a great defensive game today.”

North, which dresses seven players, made only five field goals in the first half, but stayed in the game against the taller, deeper Hornets. McCullough and Bryant never really got hot, and the Hornets needed two Huntley free throws to take a 28-18 lead to the locker room.

Brice said the Hornets set a goal of holding North to 30 after three quarters. They came close. North finished the third quarter with 31.

All heck broke loose in that third quarter. McCullough ran the court for two layups right away to get things started. Huntley drilled a 3-pointer. Bryant was suddenly spinning and scoring from everywhere.  MaKayla Noble rolled in  a 3-pointer to cap an impressive 20-0 run for a 48-18 lead.

“Just a different level of intensity for us in the second half,” Bryant said. “We’re very deep, a lot of girls were playing well, and we started to wear them down some.”

McCullough, a senior who raised her career scoring total to 982, put up her season high despite not having a big day from 3-point range.

“My confidence is a lot different now than when I was a younger player,” McCullough said. “If I’m not making 3s, I can find other ways to help.”

Brittany Ellis made a 3-pointer to stop Salisbury’s 20-0 run, and then Wilkerson made one. The game had been decided by Salisbury’s 28-point third quarter, but the Cavaliers didn’t quit.

Bryant made a 3-pointer for a 66-36 SHS lead with 3:35 left. That was the Hornets’ last bucket. The Cavaliers scored the last six points.

“”It was typical game for us in a lot of ways,” McCullough said. “We tend to overthink things in the first half and even though we’re an older team we still get some jitters. But we got it going in the third quarter. It’s a great feeling when you’re playing like that as a team.”

Salisbury has won eight in a row against North since the Cavaliers beat the Hornets three times in the 2015-16 season.

Salisbury is scheduled to play at Thomasville on Friday before a Saturday afternoon home game against West Rowan.

Ranked eighth in 1A West, North Rowan is scheduled to play at West Rowan on Wednesday and will host South Davidson on Friday.

North Rowan   9    9    13   11   — 42

Salisbury         13   15   28  10   — 66

NORTH — Wilkerson 17, Bailee Goodlett 12, Ellis 9, Stoner 3, Bloom Goodlett 1.

SALISBURY — Bryant 23, McCullough 19, Huntley 13, Noble 8, Gibson 2, Dalton 1.