They don’t come much uglier than this one, but under the circumstances, Mount Airy coach Levi Goins wasn’t complaining.
The Granite Bears’ 82-69 victory over Bishop McGuinness featured, if you want to call it that, a total of 53 fouls, five players fouling out, and 75 free throws attempted between the two teams. Of the 37 points scored by the two teams in the fourth quarter, 25 of them, including the final 22 points of the contest, came via the charity stripe.
“It was very stop-and-go toward the end, and that is never fun to watch,” said Goins, whose team was playing its third game in a span of about 50 hours. “We were 31-for-40 from the free throw line, and that is definitely good enough to win a game. I’m proud of them.
“We had some great contributions off the bench tonight. Harrison Joyce and Gregory Green played about as well as they have played all year. It was good to get those fresh legs on the court.”
The only good news for Mount Airy is that it secured a vital Northwest 1A Conference victory in a contest that pitted the fifth- and ninth-ranked 1A teams in the state, according to MaxPreps.com. The Bears (8-4, 3-1 NW1A) trailed just three times in the game, all three late in the first quarter. A 14-2 run in the second catapulted Mount Airy to a 37-25 lead after the teams had been tied at 23, but the Villains (8-5, 3-2) refused to go away, repeatedly chopping the Bears’ lead back to singe digits anytime it looked like the home team might pull away.
“They are a very well-coached team, very smart team, and they have shooters,” said Goins. “There’s no comfort zone with a team like Bishop, especially if the lead is under 20 points.”
The final time came during the late third and early fourth quarters. Mount Airy took its biggest lead of the game at 61-45 with 1:37 left in the third following a dramatic sequence that began moments earlier, when Caleb Arrington had to chase down an errant pass in the corner with his momentum carrying him out of bounds. Arrington corraled the ball while airborne and shot from 25 feet, hitting nothing but net. Then Gregory Green hit a trey on the next possession.
However, the Villains didn’t fold even after that. They proceeded to answer with a 10-1 run of their own, and could have cut the lead to four early in the fourth quarter had they not missed a 3-pointer. After that, Bishop never got closer than six, that coming with 2:20 left after Johnny Pagano sank a pair of free throws. The Villains only scored two more points the rest of the night, while Mount Airy made nine of its last 12 opportunities from the line.
The Bears prevailed even though two of their five starters, Arrington and Jackson Smith, along with key reserve Joyce, all fouled out of the game.
The foul trouble was a key issue for both teams throughout the night, and began to especially plague the Bears during the third quarter, when Arrington and Smith spent a lot of time on the bench saddled with fouls. The game was very physical throughout, but the officials were not consistent about calling contact, and no one on either team knew what was permissible.
Despite this, Mount Airy overcame some late first-half momentum from the Villains, who had ended the second quarter on an 11-3 run to pull within 40-36. Donavon Green opened the second half with an old-fashioned three-point play. Ryan Graham followed with a short jumper in the lane, and then with 5:31 left in the third, Donavon Green made a hook shot underneath and got the ball right back for a short jumper when a teammate stole Bishop’s inbounds pass. The Villains called a time-out, but Joyce stole the ball in the frontcourt coming out of the break and turned it into another three-point play and a 52-38 lead.
Donavon Green led the Bears with 21 points, including a perfect 9-for-9 performance from the line. Gregory Green added 15 points off the bench, with Graham netting 13 and Arrington 10. Pagano led Bishop with 17.
Mount Airy has exams next week and won’t play again until next Friday night against Atkins.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.