WINSTON-SALEM — It’s not easy to beat a good team twice, especially not in the span of less than a week. Thanks to Caleb Arrington, Mount Airy did it Tuesday night, and now it has a chance at a championship.
The junior’s buzzer-beating basket at the end of the second overtime lifted the Granite Bears to a 65-64 victory over Reagan in the semifinals of the Pepsi Bracket of the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic, concluding a game that featured a dozen ties and eight lead changes in 40 minutes of basketball.
The Bears (5-3) will play Parkland for the Pepsi Bracket title tonight at 7 p.m. at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, which was also the venue for the win over Reagan.
Even though Mount Airy had beaten the Raiders last week in the SouthData Classic, it was the fifth seed in the bracket, while Reagan (8-5) held the top seed.
The game abruptly began as Mount Airy snagged the first points of the game, and within seven seconds. Arrington drew first blood and collected six in the first quarter.
After one, the score rested an even 11-11. Ten of Mount Airy’s eleven first-quarter points came from in the paint, four points came from a fast break and two came off the bench.
Reagan scored the first six points of the second quarter and Bears coach Levi Goins for the Granite Bears called his first timeout two minutes in. Harrison Joyce, Will Sparks, and Donavon Green responded with baskets to get the Bears back on track, while Jackson Smith also picked up his first points of the night at four. Reagan held a 24-21 lead at the halfway point.
“Unfortunately it was the exact same situation, as we had against them, when we played them last game, it was also a 24-21 game going into halftime,” said Goins. “(This time) we wanted to make sure we were getting Donavon Greene the ball, inside, as much as possible and hopefully some shots would start to falling down.”
Reagan started the third off with an immediate three to extend its lead to six. For Mount Airy, it was again Arrington who responded, with a jumper and a shot behind the arc. The Bears tied the game at 30 after a Greene trip to the line and Jackson Smith scoring in the paint. Mount Airy kept up the attack, as Greene hit another two in the paint, and Arrington swished a jumper. Greene grabbed Graham’s board and collected another two. Mount Airy led Reagan with two minutes left in the third, and near the end of the quarter, Arrington hit another. Harrison Joyce hit a reverse layup and Greene went 3-for-4 from the line. Arrington had 10 and Greene eight in this quarter alone.
At the end of the third, Mount Airy held a 43-38 lead. The Bears had practically scored just as many points in the third, as they had the whole first half of the ball game.
However, the Raiders erased that lead in the first four minutes of the final quarter and led by one with 4:12 to play. The teams struggled to the final, with Greene drawing a foul with 21.9 seconds left. He made one of two to tie the game at 53.
Greene and Arrington each scored in the first four-minute overtime, leaving the game tied at 57 as they headed to a second overtime.
Reagan fired first in the second overtime, but Greene evened the score at 59. Arrington lifted Mount Airy back into the lead. Reagan brought another even score, and with 51 seconds left, Arrington answered with two points from the line.
Arrington who had been so clutch throughout the game, fouled Reagan’s Chris Tucker, and by the time he left the line, the Raiders had a one-point lead, with just 7.7 seconds left in double overtime.
With 6.4 seconds left on the clock, Goins called an immediate timeout in hopes to refocus.
With the clock ticking toward its end, Arrington battled and drove the ball through a multitude of defenders, and came up victorious — Mount Airy 65, Reagan 64.
Arrington and Greene each finished the night with 23 points each in the win.