Christmas came early for the Mount Airy Granite Bears in the form of a victory against a top-10 team.
South Stokes, ranked 10th in the MaxPreps 1A poll before tonight, won nine straight to begin the season. The Sauras fell to North Forsyth by a single point on Dec. 20 and then again two days later to the Bears.
Ryan Graham led the Bears with 22 points in the team’s 73-50 victory. Things didn’t exactly start out the way the Bears had planned, held to 11 points in the first quarter and Graham, who had 43 in an 82-79 road win over Eden Morehead on Thursday night, scoreless.
Saura star Ben Bowen began the game with a free-throw to get South Stokes on the board. Though Bowen missed his first attempt at the charity stripe, he would go on to shoot 9/11 from the line.
Gregory Greene got the Bears on the board with a 3-pointer more than a minute into the game. Mount Airy would attempt numerous trey balls in the quarter, but with little success following Gregory’s make.
Donavon Greene went back-and-forth with Bowen later in the quarter. Donavon ignited the crowd with a dunk, to which Bowen responded with quick goal from the low block.
The two went at it for consecutive possessions until the end of the first quarter. Bowen’s seven points led the Sauras to a 17-11 lead after eight minutes of play.
The game slowly began to favor the Bears as the second quarter got under way. Despite an opening basket from South Stokes’ Tyliq Hairston, Mount Airy responded with six straight points to cut the lead to two. The Bears did so on an and-1 from Graham and a 3-pointer by Gregory Greene.
A dunk and put-back from Donavon Greene cut the Saura lead to one before Caleb Arrington’s putback gave the Bears their first lead of the night.
The pressure continued to build between the teams when a double-technical foul was issued to Donavon Greene and Hairston. Soon after, Bowen broke the near four minute scoring drought of the Sauras. Having outscored South Stokes 21-7 in the quarter, Mount Airy led 32-24 at the half.
The early 3-point shooting struggles of the Bears were a thing of the past when the third quarter came around. Arrington, Graham, Mason Corn, and Zach Hall all made baskets from beyond the arc in the third quarter. Donovan Greene and Graham accounted for the remaining six points of the quarter that came inside the arc.
Brady Dudley began the quarter for the Sauras by knocking down a triple of his own. Dudley’s three and work on the low block by PJ Samuels helped keep the visitors close for a while, but it was Bowen’s work on the free-throw line that prevented Mount Airy from running away with the game.
Bowen attempted, and made, six free throws in the quarter. Bowen added a put-back to round out the Sauras’ 15-point quarter. The Bears led 50-39 at the end of the third quarter.
Physicality continued to be a factor. A combined 12 team fouls were committed in the third quarter. This allowed Mount Airy to spend much of the fourth quarter on the free-throw line to extend its lead.
A combined 21 free throws were taken in the final quarter of play, 15 coming from Mount Airy players. Graham, who finished 6/7 from the line, totalled 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Bowen knocked down a pair of free throws with 5:02 remaining. However, the Bears would outscore South Stokes 11-0 over the next three minutes to ice the game. The Sauras were able to notch four points in the last two minutes, but the damage was already done. Mount Airy walked away with a 73-50 win after a 23-point fourth quarter.
Graham led all scorers with 22, followed South Stokes’ Bowen with 19, and Donavon Greene with 14.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith