TRINITY — Mount Airy had a good beginning to what it hopes will be a banner 2015-16 season in girls basketball on Friday night.
The Lady Bears were one of several area teams invited to play in the Headliner’s Challenge, an annual showcase of top girls basketball teams hosted by Wheatmore High School in Trinity. Mount Airy was paired up with High Point’s Wesleyan Christian Academy, a quarterfinalist in last year’s N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3-A state tournament, and held off a late rally by the Trojans for a 53-50 victory.
The Lady Bears held a seven-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Wesleyan had whittled the lead down to 49-46 with 1:50 left to play. The Trojans then tried the strategy of fouling junior forward Lexi France, a 59 percent free-throw shooter a year ago. France foiled the gambit by going a perfect 4-for-4 from the line.
“The game was up and back,” said Mount Airy coach Howard Mayo. “Both teams took leads at different times. We got a seven-point lead, and then they hit a couple of shots and it was down to three.
“This was a good first game. They’re a good team. They had several players who could handle the ball well and shoot well. They showed us some things we need to work on and get better at.”
The Lady Bears managed to stay ahead, but not by a lot, for most of the first quarter. Mount Airy led 13-11 at the end of the first quarter and was up 27-23 at intermission. Wesleyan came out strong in the third quarter, and even when the Lady Bears stuck a nose in front, they couldn’t shake the Trojans.
A strong defensive effort was led by senior Cora Bledsoe, who didn’t score, but did grab 13 rebounds for the winners.
“We outrebounded them, and that was a positive for us,” said Mayo.
Ayano Shelton led the team with 17 points. France added 14, Jo Snow eight, Madison Hall five, Sarah Lankford and Skyler Flippen four each, and Megan Fleming one. Snow also dished out four assists to lead the team in that category.
Mount Airy’s girls return to the hardwood on Wednesday night to visit county rival Surry Central, in what will be the first game of the season involving both the Bears’ boys and girls teams. Those games will also be a “Prescription Drug Night” hosted by Central’s SHAC and HOSA Clubs, in which fans of both teams can turn in old, un-needed prescription drugs for safe and secure disposal between 5 and 7 p.m.
The Bears’ boys team opens its season at home this afternoon at 4 p.m. against Winston-Salem Christian.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.