Until late in the fourth quarter, North Surry had taken all of Mount Airy’s best shots, and answered them blow for blow.
Then, it could be argued, the Greyhounds helped the Granite Bears snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with two serious errors in the final minutes.
Mount Airy trailed by 11 points with 4:37 left in regulation, was still down by seven a minute later, and also trailed by four less than a minute into overtime, but the Bears persevered and ended up with a 78-76 overtime victory in front of a near standing-room only crowd in Mount Airy’s Howard M. Finch Gym on Friday night.
The Bears (3-0) rode a 25-point effort from big man Clay Mounce and 17 from Caleb Arrington, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime, to victory on a night when the Hounds (1-1) led for much of the contest.
North Surry seemed to be in control of what had been a seesaw battle midway through the fourth quarter. With 2:17 left in regulation and the Hounds on top 64-57, Mounce tipped in a missed shot and drew a foul from North Surry’s Brady Watts, who was a little too vocal in his disagreement with the call in the opinion of the official. A technical foul was called, and Arrington made one of two free throws on the tech, and then Mounce made his bonus free throw, cutting the Hounds’ lead to 64-61.
On the technical possession, Arrington drove into the lane and drew a foul from Watts, made both free throws, and cut the lead to one. Moments later, after North Surry missed at the other end, he knocked in a 3-pointer from the right wing, and the Bears led 66-64.
It was their first lead since the score was 12-11 in the first quarter. The Hounds tied it back up moments later, but the game’s momentum had turned 180 degrees completely in favor of the home team.
The teams exchanged scores once more, and then each had an opportunity to win the game in regulation. Mounce nearly ended it in the most dramatic fashion of all, taking a desperation 65-foot heave at the buzzer that hit off the back and the front of the rim, but wouldn’t fall.
In overtime, North Surry made one final push to put the Granite Bears away. On its first two possessions of the extra session, Mason Hawks and Kendal Tucker drove to the basket and scored easy layups to stake the Hounds to a 72-68 advantage. But then Mount Airy tightened up its defense, and pulled back into a tie when Will Sparks finished off a fastbreak with a layup at the 1:46 mark.
A minute later, Arrington struck again, stealing the ball from the Hounds in the backcourt and racing toward the basket. After a few passes, Mounce had the ball underneath, and there was nothing that North Surry could do but let him score with 43 seconds left for a 74-72 lead.
Tucker made one of two free throws with 26.3 left to cut the deficit to one, then quickly sent Arrington to the line for a one-and-one free-throw opportunity. It was here that the Hounds committed their second costly error at the end of the contest.
Arrington missed the front end of the one-and-one, and it appeared as if North Surry would regain possession, but a lane violation was called on the Hounds and Arrington got a second chance. This time, he made the front end, then the bonus, and Mount Airy had a three-point lead.
Sparks made two free throws with four seconds left to clinch the win for the Bears. North Surry hit a three at the buzzer.
The Hounds ended the first quarter on a 15-2 run after Mount Airy had taken an early 12-9 lead. North Surry continued to lead from that point forward, sometimes by as many as 10 points, before the Bears tied it at 41 on a layup by Donavon Greene with four minutes left in the third quarter.
However, Tucker responded with two 3-pointers in a 10-0 run for the Hounds that seemed to put them back in control. They led by 11 at the end of the quarter, and remained in command of the game all the way to the point when Watts received the technical foul.
Mason Hawks led the Greyhounds with 23 points. Tucker added 22 and Carter Phillips 15.
For the Bears, Sparks had 11 points, including four in the overtime, and Ryan Graham 10.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.