The opening quarter of Mount Airy’s basketball season was an electric display of efficient offense and lock-down defense in the Bears’ victory over Winston-Salem Christian.
Mount Airy only missed four shots and forced seven turnovers during a 39-12 romp in the first period. The Granite Bears used this early advantage to propel themselves to an 89-75 win over the Lions on Saturday.
“We were playing with confidence,” Mount Airy coach Levi Goins said. “We were finishing in transition and doing all those things. Will (Sparks) was knocking down shots and everyone was hitting (shots).”
Sparks and Clay Mounce led Mount Airy in scoring with 24 points apiece, and they also combined for 21 of the Bears’ first-quarter points. Sparks orchestrated the offense from his point guard position, while also mixing in drives to the basket and jump shots to keep the Lions’ defense off guard.
“Will is very difficult to guard,” Goins said. “If people are going to focus on Clay, that will open up things for Will and the other shooters.”
Mounce also recorded three of his game-high seven blocks in the period to help set the tone defensively for Mount Airy.
A basket from Winston-Salem Christian’s Brice Marshall made it 13-7 early in the first quarter, but the Bears cranked up their defense and turned turnovers into points to go on a 26-5 run over the rest of the period. Caleb Arrington also chipped in seven of his 17 points in the frame, and knocked down a couple of outside shots to stretch the Lions’ defense.
Mount Airy couldn’t sustain this hot start, and Goins was unimpressed with his team’s second quarter performance as the Lions trimmed the deficit to nine by halftime. Mount Airy coughed up seven turnovers of its own to help Winston-Salem Christian regain some momentum.
“It’s first-game jitters,” Goins said. “It’s tough to replicate a full-court press in practice that someone else runs. We stopped trusting each other and stopped following instincts… It’s good experience for us, but as a coach I absolutely hate those situations.”
The Lions made a 50-41 game at halftime. The lead was down to 54-48 after a couple of baskets from Marshall, who led his team with 32 points.
However, six points was the closest the Lions would get throughout the rest of the contest, as Mount Airy rediscovered its offensive groove from this point forward. Sparks, Mounce and Arrington combined for the Bears’ next nine points and Mount Airy eventually stretched its lead to 70-54 by the end of the third quarter.
This sizable lead helped the Bears relax and get back to basics in the final period. They crashed the glass and received balanced scoring, with seven different players finding the bottom of the net in the fourth quarter.
Overall, 10 of the 11 Granite Bears who took the floor on Saturday found the score sheet.
“It’s so early that we’re figuring things out,” Goins said. “Today, we were trying to feel out who gives us what, but I hope we can have that many guys scoring. It would be ideal.”
Mount Airy’s coach did say he expects his three football players in Jackson Smith, Donovan Greene and Cooper Orange to become bigger factors as the season progresses, which could lead to a little less balance, but equally productive offense.
The Bears will look to keep their scorching offensive start going on Wednesday, when they travel to Dobson to take on Surry Central.
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