High school girls basketball: One out of 3 ain’t bad

Published 11:34 am Saturday, December 31, 2022

By Mike London

CARY — Exhausted, but upbeat, the Salisbury girls basketball team headed back home from the John Wall Invitational.

When the Hornets signed up for the multi-state event filled with 4As and national powers — a New Jersey team beat an Ohio team in the tournament final — they knew 0-3 was possible.

They went 1-2, with one super win and two competitive losses.

While they left home 8-0 and return 9-2, the Hornets got better, got tested to the max. Their three scraps in this tournament could make a big difference for them in the long run.

Salisbury’s goal is simple — a repeat 2A state championship — and while the Hornets may not be the favorite, minus Rachel McCullough, Jamecia Huntley, Jaleiah Gibson and Kiki Walker – they have proven that they still are very much in the mix of contenders.

There’s stuff to work on, for sure. Panther Creek’s press gave them fits on Wednesday.

But the JWI was terrific exposure for senior guard Kyla Bryant, who took on some of the nation’s most hyped guards and made the all-tournament team, and for junior forward MaKayla Noble, who is turning almost every game into a new breakout party.

Seniors Haley Dalton and Icesis Nwafor also will be next-level players, so it was good experience and good exposure for them, as well. They got to play on a very big stage.

It’s possible that Friday’s 42-32 loss to North Pitt, Salisbury’s first loss to a 2A since the Shelby heartbreaker ended the 2021 season, will be a state championship preview.

Salisbury is ranked fourth in 2A West in the latest RPI rankings, while North Pitt (9-2)  is No. 2 in 2A East.

The 32 points were the fewest points the Hornets have scored since North Rowan beat them 54-29 in 2016. They’ve got some very unselfish, defensive-minded starters, which is great, but now they know they’ve got to find ways to score a little more.

There seemed to be a time in almost every game last season when McCullough would suddenly hit back-to-back 3s — and it was all over. The Hornets miss that element. It’s a little tougher for them to score now, but they are still very tough to score on.

Bryant was held to 10, less than half her average, by North Pitt. Noble had nine, and Nwafor had eight.

Salisbury’s biggest offensive quarter was 10 points.

Salisbury did a good job defensively against North Pitt star Zamareya Jones, a nationally ranked junior. Jones scored 13, but she shot 3-for-11.

Where North Pitt excelled was at the foul line. North Pitt made nine of 10 free throws.

Now it’s back to the Central Carolina Conference for the Hornets. Salisbury is home against East Davidson on Tuesday.

Salisbury — Bryant 10, Noble 9, Nwafor 8, Dalton 4, Morgan 1

North Pitt — Jones 13, Johnson 11, Staton 9, Edwards 9.