High school basketball: Hornet girls charge into third round

Published 11:55 pm Thursday, February 24, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY — There was some debate in the Salisbury High gym on Thursday over whether or not Mary Morgan would take a charge from a rhinoceros or an elephant.

We’ll never find out how the junior forward might fare against the animal kingdom, but everyone should know by now that Morgan isn’t afraid to take a charge from any girl.

Morgan stepped in and cheerfully accepted two more charges during Salisbury’s 67-36 win against Community School of Davidson in the second round of the 2A state playoffs.

That’s her specialty. It’s what she was born to do. It’s something she does as well as anyone who’s ever suited up for the Hornets — male or female.

Sometimes the play that gets the second-seeded Hornets fired up and energized isn’t a Rachel McCullough 3-pointer or a Jamecia Huntley steal or a Kyla Bryant crossover.

Sometime it’s simply Morgan sacrificing her body, taking a charge and smiling as the whistle blows and her teammates pick her up off the hardwood.

That was the case on Thursday.

“She took a charge that got one of their best players (Ruthie Camp) in foul trouble,” Salisbury head coach Lakai Brice said. “One of the biggest plays of the game, as far as giving us energy.  Mary does so much that is never going to show up in that scorebook.  She’s always in the right spot, always helping on defense, always getting that big offensive rebound.”

Morgan reminds Brice of De’Rya Wylie, who played a huge role on great Salisbury teams. Wylie decided a lot of games with her hustle. Morgan brings that same sort of unselfish team-first mentality to a deep and talented squad. that hasn’t tasted defeat since November.

“They’re very well-coached and they really execute well,” CSOD coach Jay Martin said. “Every time you make a mistake, they convert. We knew coming in here tonight we had to be perfect to have a chance.”

Salisbury (24-1) was a long way from perfect early on. The 15th-seeded Spartans (16-8) actually led 3-0, and it took the Hornets three minutes to score against some tenacious man-to-man defense offered by the visitors. Not many teams try to play man-to-man against the Hornets. Salisbury finally broke the ice with two free throws by McCullough.

“We were missing some easy ones early,” Brice said. “And Community School played well. That’s a good team.”

It was 4-all for a while, and the Hornets settled for a 13-8 lead after a quarter.

The bench maintained the lead while resting the starters, and then Bryant, McCullough and Huntley all got going. The lead was 33-15 by halftime. Bryant and McCullough had nine each at halftime.

McCullough hit a 3-pointer early in the second half, and Huntley made several nice plays. Steals, rebounds, passes and finishes. She averages about 9 points per game, but she scored a season-high 15 and added 10 rebounds for a double-double. She had one third-effort rebound bucket that had to be seen to be believed.

“Everyone we play is going to key on Kyla and Rachel,” Brice said. “We know Jamecia can score more, and we’ve talked to her about being more aggressive on offense. If the two best defenders are on Kyla and Rachel, who can guard Jamecia?”

Not many people. She’s tall, long, explosive, bouncy and has the best first step since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Bryant had 18 points and seven rebounds. McCullough had some tough drives as well as 3s and matched Huntley’s 15. MaKayla Noble came off the bench to grab eight rebounds.

The only negative for the Hornets was an ankle injury to shot-blocker Haley Dalton that occurred in the first half. Brice is optimistic that she’ll be able to return soon.

Mariana Soares was an impressive player for the Spartans. She scored 16 tough points despite a long-armed, quick-footed defensive effort by Huntley.

Bryant got the defensive assignment on Camp, CSOD’s No. 2 scorer and a solid shooter, and limited her to nine points.

While the Hornets won by 31, this wasn’t a running-clock wipeout. The Spartans fought from the tip to the final second.

“We set and reached a lot of goals this season,” Martin said. “Three seniors led us and made a huge impact on our program.”

Salisbury will play at  home on Saturday.

CSOD            8      7     12   9    — 36

Salisbury      13   20    17  17  — 67

CSOD — Soares 16, Camp 9, O’Donnell 7, DeLay 3, Feighery 1.

SHS — Bryant 18, McCullough 15, Huntley 15, Noble 8, Morgan 5, Dalton 2, Nwafor 2, Gibson 2.