Many in the massive crowd that attended Friday night’s games between Mount Airy and North Surry will only remember the girls game as a footnote to the game that was played later on, but the Lady Bears and Lady Hounds put on a show in their own right.
Mount Airy’s Jo Snow grabbed a loose ball underneath the basket and made a frantic dash from one end of the court to the other in the final seconds of the Lady Bears’ 50-49 victory. Snow was fouled near the baseline underneath the basket and sank one of two free throws to provide the deciding margin.
“We did just enough,” said Mount Airy coach Howard Mayo. “North Surry did a lot of good things and played very hard, did a good job of crashing the boards, getting second-chance opportunities and taking us out of some things. Jo did a good job of attacking the basket and making one of the two free throws.”
Mount Airy (3-0) took the lead midway through the second quarter and was ahead by a few points for most of the night, but North Surry (1-2) battled back and finally took the lead back with just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, when Paige Sizemore hit a short jumper in the lane to tie the score at 43, then got a defensive stop and got the ball ahead to Brooklyn Woodbury on a fast break to go in front.
The Lady Bears answered quickly, with Sarah Lankford hitting a short jumper to tie the game with 3:33 left, and then getting a steal from Cara Bledsoe. Bledsoe quickly pushed the ball ahead to Snow, who finished with 2:14 remaining to put Mount Airy back on top 47-45.
A wild sequence of events as time ran under a minute allowed North Surry to tie the game again. Down 49-45, the Lady Hounds cut their deficit in half on a short jumper from Nichols. Mikaela Johnson blocked a Lady Bear shot at the other end, sending a fast-break back the other way. Nichols took it to the basket and drew a foul from Mount Airy’s Skyler Flippen, but missed both free throws. Johnson chased down the carom on the second miss, then drew a foul of her own and made both of the charity tosses to tie game with 47.9 seconds remaining.
The Lady Bears missed two free throws at the 28.6 second mark and Nichols rebounded, giving North Surry a chance for the victory. However, they turned the ball over as time ran under 10 seconds, giving Snow her chance to make the home team a winner.
“I’m very pleased with how we defended that last possession,” Mayo said. “We got the turnover and got the ball into one of our guards’ hands.”
The Lady Hounds built their biggest lead of the game in the first few minutes of play, helped by an unkind rim on Mount Airy’s basket. Snow and Ayano Shelton missed several close-in shots early in the game, and Shelton picked up two quick fouls. North Surry capitalized with an 8-0 run, and led 12-4 after Jessy Nichols grabbed a rebounds and took the ball 80 feet to the other end of the court for a layup with 2:59 left in the opening period.
The Lady Bears clawed away at the lead from that point, and actually tied the game on a 3-pointer by Madeline Mayfield late in the first quarter before North Surry restored a 14-12 lead.
The Lady Hounds led until Snow hit a 3-pointer from left baseline with 4:39 left in the first half, putting Mount Airy on top 20-18. North Surry never led again in the first half, but had tied the game at 23 until Flippen hit a spectacular 3-pointer, firing an off-balance shot off her right hip at the halftime buzzer from the baseline for a 26-23 Mount Airy lead.
“We were missing some shots in the paint that you have to make,” Mayo said. “Basketball’s a funny game. A lot of times, you keep playing along, and the game will flip, and that’s what happened in the second quarter.”
The Lady Bears’ lead peaked at seven points on a 17-foot jumper by Shelton with 4:12 left in the third. That gave them a 32-25 edge, but the Lady Hounds began to battle back after that.
Even though his team came up a point short, North Surry head coach Shane Slate was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We got better all week,” he said. “From the East Surry game, to the Bishop game, we got better, and we got a lot better tonight as well. I thought both teams did good things on both ends, and we had about four plays in the last minute, two on offense and two on defense, and if we’d made the right decisions, we win or it goes into overtime.
“It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you have to go through this process to get to where you want to be.”
Snow led Mount Airy with 18 points. Flippen had 11, all in the first half, and Shelton added eight, all in the second half. For North Surry, Woodbury and Nichols had 10, Arin Bunker nine, and Johnson eight.