Salisbury boys outlast North, secure share of CCC regular-season championship

Published 12:01 am Saturday, February 12, 2022

By David Shaw

For the Salisbury Post

SPENCER — Salisbury’s boys basketball team took the long way home Friday night — and still got there.

In a hotly contested match that was so vintage it ought to be on vinyl, the Hornets outlasted host North Rowan and secured a share of the CCC regular-season championship.

“That’s exactly how it felt — old school,” seventh-year coach Bryan Withers exhaled after Salisbury earned a 74-70 victory and finished tied with Thomasville for the conference crown. “We knew it would be. We needed to play tough and hard and we did. We had people making plays they’re supposed to make. It’s a rivalry game and North is a good team, but this gym rocks. It’s a really good environment to play in.”

Salisbury (16-4, 11-1 CCC), which had its 13-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday, needed a collegial effort to overcome third-place North (16-4, 8-4). Sophomore Juke Harris paced all scorers with a career-best 35 points, teammate Cam Stout put up 21 and Mike Geter — a six-foot guard who barrels down the lane like Barry Sanders running for daylight — scored on an over-and-under layup that gave the Hornets an elusive, two-point lead with 28 seconds to play.

“When he started that drive, I had faith he’d find his way,” said Harris, who added a free throw with 19.6 seconds hanging on the clock that made it 71-68 SHS.

“We cleared the floor and set a pick for (Geter),” said Withers. “He knows that if they don’t pick him up to go all the way. If the man helps, kick it to the corner. But they never helped. They weren’t going to leave these two (Harris and Stout) open for a second.”

Added Stout, “In those moments, we all trust Mike.”

Yet like any compelling drama, the outcome wasn’t revealed until the final scene. With the raucous, full-throated crowd on its feet, North inched within 71-70 on a pair of Amir Alexander free throws before Harris sank a foul shot with just 8.7 seconds to go. He back-rimmed the back end of a one-and-one, giving the Cavs one final opportunity to tie the score.

“Except that (Salisbury’s) Dashaun Brown grabbed the rebound and passed it right to me,” Harris reported afterward. “I saw three people coming at me and then saw Cam alone under the basket. It was the right decision to go to him for an open layup.”

Down by four points with three seconds remaining, North didn’t have an answer.

“They’ve got two high-level scorers,” losing coach Jason Causby conceded after North’s five-game winning streak was curbed. “And we worked like crazy to try to limit them. Our kids did a good job trying to regroup and make stops. But there were all these little things — boxing out, making free throws — that enabled Salisbury to win.”

An overflow crowd that witnessed a smorgasbord of antics — including cheerleaders from both schools engaging in a final-minute, baseline-to-baseline cartwheel competition — wasn’t one of them.

“I want to thank our fans for showing up and showing out like they did,” Causby said. “They created a great basketball environment. With all the stuff we’ve had to deal with, this season with the stuff at Christmas and last season with COVID, this right here is what makes your juices flow. As a coach, this is why we love it.”

North received 12 points apiece from junior Naejone Whitney and sophomore George Maxwell. Whitney knotted the score at 68-all when he dropped a 10-foot jumper from the right side with 50 seconds to go. And Maxwell triggered a 13-2 scoring spree that helped the Cavs turn a 23-13 second-quarter deficit into a 26-25 edge. “George can come off the bench and give us points in a hurry,” Causby said.

The Hornets unleashed some spirited second-half rebounding and precise passing that electrified the crowd on the Salisbury side. Together with the Cavs, they produced an exhilarating gift of a game, one that featured a pair of solid, playoff-ready teams.

“It reminded me of back when we were playing,” said Withers. “It was loud. It was heated. Everybody had the adrenaline going.  It came down to Mike Geter. He had a play and he made a play.”

NOTES: The CCC tournament opens Monday, with the semifinals and finals scheduled next week at Lexington. … Thomasville (17-4, 11-1) won its last six conference games, including Friday’s 74-67 win at Lexington. Conference officials will hold a drawing Saturday morning to determine the tourney’s No. 1 seed. … Harris scored 24 points in the first half and finished 15-for-20 from the free throw line. … North Rowan will host South Davidson in the tournament opener on Monday.

Salisbury          18   22   13   21 — 74

North Rowan  12   23   21   14 — 70

SALISBURY (74) — Harris 35, Stout 21, Geter 8, Brown 4, Chunn 2, Walker 2, Antosek 2, Dalton, H.Webb, Woodruff.

NORTH ROWAN (70) — Maxwell 12, Whitney 12, Hanson 10, Alexander 9, Q.Carpenter 9, D.Carpenter 7, McArthur 5, Charleston 2, O’Kelly 2, Morrow 1, Hailey 1, Morrow, Charleston, Blakeney.