SALISBURY — College basketball teams are getting everything in line for next month’s NCAA Tournament. As March Madness has shown in recent years, you don’t have to have everything figured out at the beginning of the season as long as you do by the end.
The applies to the North Surry Lady Greyhounds. The Lady Hounds (16-12) turned around a sub-.500 season and are now headed to the second round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs.
The Hounds were 7-11 following a 50-49 overtime loss to Forbush on January 26. All the pieces were there for the team to succeed, but things didn’t seem to click until late January.
A win over West Stokes on Jan. 30 was the beginning of the Hounds’ revitalization. Coach Shane Slate’s team has now won nine of 10 games, the most recent being a 54-41 victory over Central Carolina Conference runner-up Salisbury.
A Cinderella run in the Western Piedmont 2A Athletic Conference Tournament was enough to earn the Hounds a 20 seed in the West. North was sent on the road to face the 13-seeded Hornets of Salisbury (19-6, 15-3).
The Lady Hornets have trended in the opposite direction as the Hounds, losing three of their last four games heading into the playoffs.
Normally the Hounds’ leading scorer, 6’0’ senior Mikaela Johnson was limited to just four points due to foul trouble. But Martha Holt and Hannah Moxley more than compensated for their teammates’ absence, scoring a combined 36 points.
The only Hornet lead of the evening came at 4-0 after field goals from Jinika Glenn and Anayia Fulson. North Surry got on the scoreboard at 5:56 with a post-up from Johnson. This would be Johnson’s lone field goal of the night.
Moxley put the Hounds in the lead by scoring seven straight points. Salisbury proceeded scored on back-to-back possessions, and then the Greyhounds did the same to take a 13-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Holt kept the Hounds’ momentum alive with an and-one just 28 seconds into the second quarter. North Surry went on to score seven straight before a Hornet timeout.
Salisbury cut the lead back to single digits with five straight points from Fulson and Tacorra Robinson.
The teams traded points for the remainder of the quarter until North Surry scored on consecutive possessions to earn a 28-16 lead heading into halftime.
Salisbury had its’ best scoring quarter in the third, while the Greyhounds had their worst. Taylor Duncan and Holt scored the Hounds’ only field goals, while Johnson and Callie Willard added points from the charity stripe.
Meanwhile, the Hornets found their stroke in the quarter. Lexi May knocked down the team’s first 3-pointer of the game, with Fulson adding another from downtown to beat the buzzer.
Apart from the pair of 3-pointers, Salisbury’s offense was focused on attacking the basket. The team was able to draw fouls when unable to convert on drives.
Despite outscoring North Surry 16-12 in the quarter, the Hornets still trailed 40-32 with just eight minutes to play.
The scoring flurry Sailsbury had in the third quarter diminished in the fourth. Maria Capito scored all four of the Hornets’ points in the first 4:29 of the quarter.
North Surry took this time to build its lead back to double digits.
The game slowed down and went to the free-throw line for the final three minutes. Willard, Moxley, and Holt combined for 10 points off free throws in the quarter.
Salisbury was forced to get points from the free-throw line because the 3-pointers weren’t falling. They were also unable to stop North Surry from scoring, and the Hornets would fall 54-41 on their home court.
Holt led the Greyhounds with 19 points, followed by Moxley with 17, and Willard with 10.
The leading scorer for Salisbury was Fulson with 16, followed by Glenn with eight, and Capito with seven.
North Surry will travel to Connelly Springs to face the fourth-seeded East Burke Cavaliers (26-1, 12-0) on Thursday, February 22.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith