High school girls basketball: Strong second half for Hornets; North starting to roll

Published 10:07 pm Sunday, December 18, 2022


From staff reports

GREENSBORO — Salisbury’s girls basketball team was looking for a challenge — and found it on Saturday night at Ben L. Smith.

After a shaky first half that ended with them trailing by five points, the Hornets were terrific during the last 16 minutes and beat Smith’s Golden Eagles 49-41.

Salisbury, which has won 34 in a row dating back to last season, is ranked first in 2A by MaxPreps, a ranking based on game scores — margin of victory and loss — as well as records and strength of schedule.

In the RPI rankings, based on records and strength of schedule and used to determine NCHSAA playoff seeding, Salisbury is ranked second in 2A behind Shelby,

Whatever the polls say, it was a great early road win for the Hornets. They had to dig deep against a team with more speed and more depth.

Salisbury is not the deep machine it was last season when it had the luxury of bringing experienced talent off the bench. The Hornets are still really good, but three of last season’s reserves are now in the starting lineup. Against strong opponents, some of Salisbury’s starters are going to be asked to play 32 minutes.

Salisbuury coach Lakai Brice, who logged the 169th win she’s achieved during her 10 seasons, had some apprehension about the game. The Hornets have been battling sickness and injuries to starters MaKayla Noble and Mary Morgan.

“You play how you practice and we didn’t have our best week and then we came out flat against a very good team,” Brice said.

Salisbury couldn’t find any way to score in the first half. Ben L. Smith, which lost for the first time and is one of the best teams in 3A, used its quickness to bottle up Salisbury standout Kyla Bryant.

Salisbury stayed in the game mostly because of the shot-blocking skills of center Haley Dalton, who rejected six shots in the early going.

It was 7-all after a quarter. Smith spurted at the end of the first half, got some easy fast-break buckets and took a 20-15 lead to the break. Bryant was held to five points in the first half. Icesis Nwafor and Noble also scored five for Salisbury.

The Hornets needed a quick start to the second half — and got it. Dalton scored inside — her first points —before a 3-pointer by Bryant tied the game at 20-all.

Smith got two free throws, but then back-to-back 3-pointers by Noble finally swung the game in the Hornets’ favor at 26-22.

The Hornets (7-0) got a scare recently when Noble went down with an apparent knee injury, but she appears to be fine. She’s a mobile, 5-foot-11 forward who can rebound, defend and shoot, so she’s a very big part of the Hornets’ hopes of a repeat championship.

“So happy for MaKayla that she’s been able to return,” Brice said. “She’s due for that breakout year.”

The lead was 28-22 after a Mary Morgan layup, and the Hornets would hold the lead the rest of the game.

Nwafor, who had a strong double-double, made two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter as the Hornets went up by as many as nine points.

Smith kept fighting and cut that lead to four in the final minute, but Bryant put the game away with her ball-handling skills and foul-shooting.

Bryant had 18 points with two 3-pointers, 6-for-6 on free throws and five assists. Nwafor had three 3-pointers, 13 points and 10 rebounds. Noble, who made four 3-pointers, had 14 points and nine rebounds. Dalton had eight blocks. Morgan had three steals, three assists and took a charge — that’s her thing — in the final minute.

The Hornets will play Palisades (3-6), a new Charlotte 4A, on Thursday, at Olympic. Palisades was opened to help relieve overcrowding at Olympic and Harding.

Salisbury will be playing in the John Wall Invitational in Raleigh after Christmas.

Salisbury  7   8    18   16  — 49

Smith       7    13   8    13   — 41

Salisbury scoring — Bryant 18, Noble 14, Nwafor 13, Morgan 2, Dalton 2.


SPENCER — North Rowan beat Robinson 60-48 on Saturday in a non-conference game.

The Cavaliers (6-2) got 19 points from Bailee Goodlett, 18 from Brittany Ellis and 13 from Dasia Elder.

Ellis made four 3-pointers, while Elder hit three.

North is the healthiest it’s been. Getting Ellis healthy has been huge. She’s scored 34 points in the last two games.

Goodlett has been a terror all season and already has scored 215 points. She’s averaging 26.9 points per game.

Robinson fell to 2-4.

North has another game before Christmas, as it will play at Carson (1-6) on Tuesday.

North will be one of the five Rowan schools competing in the Dale Sporting Goods Sam Moir Christmas Classic at Catawba College on Dec. 28-30.

If North wins at Carson, the Cavaliers will wrap up the No. 2 seed. West Rowan will be seeded No. 1.

Robinson   14    14  10  10  — 48

North           17  20  15    8    60

North — Bailee Goodlett 19, Ellis 18, D. Elder 13, Bloom Goodlett 5, Stoner 3, Wilson 2