High school basketball: Salisbury boys stay undefeated in CCC

Published 4:20 am Wednesday, January 26, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY — The 10 days between Salisbury boys basketball games seemed more like 10 weeks for head coach Bryan Withers.

The Hornets had started to figure it out in late December, had started to come together like the interlocking pieces of a giant puzzle, but then they had to sit and sit, and then the snow came.

They finally got back at it on Tuesday night, with the West Davidson Green Dragons in the gym.

Salisbury won 64-30. The eighth straight win for the Hornets. It was easy, probably too easy.

Talent-wise, it could have been worse and maybe it should have been worse, but West Davidson (2-13, 1-4) gave everything it had to give.

If Withers had his way, the Hornets (10-3, 5-0) would play North Rowan or Lexington or Thomasville every Tuesday and Friday because he relishes the chaos of fierce competition, but there are other schools that are members of the 1A/2A Central Carolina Conference and the schedule says you play everyone twice.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when we walked out there tonight,” Withers said. “We hadn’t played a game in so long, but I thought we had some energy. We did a pretty good job of competing and sharing the ball and playing together.”

The trick is to try to play at a high level and not coast against those teams that are slower and smaller and less deep. You’ve got to pretend that it’s Thomasville out there because that soft pass you throw against West Davidson will make it to your teammate’s waiting hands. Against Thomasville, that same pass is going to be a layup and an air-punch on the other end.

The challenge is to try to get better in games like Tuesday’s that you know you’re going to win as soon as the ref tosses the ball in the air. That’s easier said than done, but the Hornets are starting to get it. They looked like a team more concerned with the scoreboard than with the scorebook, and that’s a very good thing.

Deuce Walker, the electrifying football cornerback/receiver, has accepted a defense-first role. Mike Geter, the scintillating football quarterback, has accepted a pass-first role. They could score more, but they understand the Hornets have taller, more efficient scorers.

There wasn’t  ton of  continuity at times on Tuesday. Salisbury has a mile-long roster. Sometimes that roster chews up an entire page of a scorebook, and everyone was going in and out against West Davidson.

What Salisbury has that most 2A teams don’t have is two dynamic scorers.

Two consistent scorers. Two sure-thing scorers.

In sophomore Jayden “Juke” Harris and senior Cameron Stout, the Hornets have two guys who are going to give them a combined 40 just about every night. They’ve combined for as many as 47 this season.

On Tuesday, Harris had 24 and Stout 16. An even 40.

They’re different. Harris scores in bunches and in blurs and flashes. He gets to the rim and into the lane in a blink. One second he’s at the top of the key, and the next thing you know he’s elevating over everyone to take a 7-foot, point-blank shot. When the Hornets get out on a fastbreak, he always seems to be there to finish it.

Harris has grown 4 inches in the past year and is a tall, long guard at 6-foot-4. He’ll probably get taller and longer. The Davie coaches were stunned when they saw him in the Christmas tournament.  Harris is still thin, but he’s got some steel in him. When he gets jostled at the rim or in the lane, he is still able to finish. The sophomore already has been offered by Western Carolina, which is impressive, but he expects bigger offers are in his future.

That’s a reasonable expectation.

Stout is just an old-school basketball player, 6-foot-2 and more thickly built than most hoopers. He’s a smooth, smart operator who doesn’t wow you when you first see him, but he takes good shots — and makes them. Everything is balanced and in rhythm, whichi is why he’s such a high-percentage option. He doesn’t need 20 shots to get his 18 points. He just needs 12. He rebounds. He can pass. He’s under control.

Whenever Stout makes a nice pass to Harris or Harris makes a nice pass to Stout, Withers looks like he wants to jump to his feet. When those two mesh, the Hornets, who are ranked sixth in the 2A West by MaxPreps, are something special. There are plenty of athletes flying around them, including impressive freshman Bryce Dalton, plus a hard-working, 6-foot-6 guy, Nick Antosek, who has his moments in the paint.

West Davidson was still hanging around in the second quarter, down 21-11, when Harris went squirming into the lane twice in a row to expand the lead to 26-11. He got bumped, but still made his first shot. On his second attack, he got the hoop and the foul call.

“The refs weren’t calling a lot tonight, but I tried to make sure I went up strong every time,” Harris said. “I wanted to make sure I got the ball up to the rim and gave myself a chance for the and-one.”

Leading 32-14 at halftime, the Hornets began the second half with an 8-0 run that ended any danger of a miraculous upset.

The best play of the second half came next. That was Stout’s dish to Harris on a break. Harris proved that even when he’s sideways in the air and headed out of bounds, he’s still in scoring position. He made a twisting, angled banker for a three-point play and a 43-18 lead.

The crowd erupted. Withers was masked, but you still could see the smile.

“Right now we’re not where we were a few weeks ago, but we will get back to that,” Withers said. “We can rebound better, share the ball better, take care of the ball better than we did tonight. We’ve got to get it all back because we’ve got really big games coming up. There are some very good teams in our league.”

W. Davidson   9   5   6   10  — 30

Salisbury        17  15  18   14  — 64

W. DAVIDSON — N. Baker 7, Priddy 5, Motley 4, Koontz 4, Crews 3, J. Baker 2, Estep 2, Baka 2, Williams 1.

SALISBURY — Harris 24, Stout 16, Dalton 7, Brandon 5, Geter 4, Antosek 4, Brown 2, Chunn 1, Webb 1.