High school basketball: Hornets ready for another tough game

Published 7:41 am Saturday, March 4, 2023


By Mike London

SALISBURY — The Salisbury girls basketball team is ready for another defensive battle today in the 2A West Regional final.

Tipoff is at noon at Grimsley High in Greensboro, the same site where the Hornets beat Shelby in two overtimes in the regional final last season.

The Hornets will take on East Burke, girls from the rural communities of Icard, Hildebran and Connelly Springs that lie between Hickory and Morganton.

The third-seeded Hornets, 25-3 and winners of 14 in a row, already have fought through defensive-minded playoff games against Forbush (Round 2), T.W, Andrew (Round 3) and Hickory (regional semifinal).

East Burke (27-2) is tall and yields 34.5 points per game, so the Hornets will have to be near their best to continue their dream of back-to-back state championships.

East Burke lost a game to Newton-Conover and also lost one to Freedom.

Salisbury’s three losses all were to teams that are still playing — 4A Panther Creek, 2A Northwood and Carroll County, Va.

Salisbury has an experience advantage. This is the third Final Four for leading scorer and primary ball-handler Kyla Bryant, a North Carolina Central commit, and for charge-taker and rebounder Mary Morgan.

Bryant and Morgan are 15-2 in playoff games.

Senior Icesis Nwafor, who scored 20 points at Hickory, shot-blocker Haley Dalton and athletic junior MaKayla Noble also have championship-game experience. All five starters and sixth person Shamya Arnold already have been on the biggest stages you can be on in high school basketball.

East Burke is younger.

Leading scorer Kara Brinkley, who averages 12.5 points, is a tall freshman. Braelyn Stillwell, a ball-handler who averages 7.7 assists, is a sophomore.

Aubree Grigg, a 6-footer and the leading rebounder, is a senior.

Salisbury hasn’t seen East Burke in a while. East Burke beat the Hornets early in the playoffs in 2015-16, Bryanna Troutman’s freshman season.

East Burke normally travels big, so it should be a great crowd.

Still playing in the East are North Pitt and Seaforth.

Next Saturday’s state championship game will be played in either Chapel Hill at the Smith Center or in Raleigh at Reynolds Coliseum.