GALAX — Mount Airy’s Lady Bears celebrated a reunion of old friends with a big victory Wednesday night.
Galax High School, led by former Mount Airy head coach Howard Mayo, is the host for the eight-team Skyline National Bank Christmas Tournament, but the headliners for day one of the three-day event were the defending North Carolina 1A state champion Lady Bears. Mount Airy was the designated “home” team for the final game of the night, and the Lady Bears didn’t disappoint.
Mount Airy scored the game’s first 15 points and spent the rest of the night running players in and out on their way to a 46-18 victory and a date in tonight’s semifinals with old rival Forbush.
“It was a good game for us to come out and get some cobwebs out of our system after the holiday break,” said Mount Airy head coach Angela Mayfield, whose team improved to 5-1. “I thought we did some good things defensively and played hard from the get-go. I still don’t feel like we’re rolling offensively the way I hope we will later on, but that’s OK. You don’t want to be playing your best ball right now.”
The Lady Bears can expect more of a challenge tonight at 7:30, when they take on the Lady Falcons.
Forbush, now 8-1 on the season, advanced to the semis with a 73-59 win over Coeburn (Va.) Eastside in an earlier game. This marks the third year in a row that the two teams will meet in a Christmas tournament. The Falcons beat the Lady Bears in the championship game of the Galax tournament two years ago, then lost to them in the semifinals of Mount Airy’s own tournament a year ago.
The Lady Bears did look a bit rusty in the early going on Wednesday’s game, missing several shots early in the game. After two and a half minutes, Mount Airy held a 2-0 lead. But the Blue Devils were finding the going much rougher. On several possessions, Grayson County (3-4) couldn’t even get a shot off without a Lady Bear stealing the ball, and even when they did, it was with one more white jerseys in their faces and ended up clanging off the rim and into the hands of a Mount Airy player.
The Lady Bear offense finally got going when Asherah Smith got open along the left baseline and knocked down a 3-pointer. The next few minutes were a free-for-all for the relentless Mount Airy defense. Jo Snow had a steal and took it in for two points, while Shaunae Sawyers swiped it twice, tossing ahead to Smith and Snow for the deuce. Arry Ward got inside, drew a foul and hit both charity tosses. When Coach Mayfield went to her bench at the 2:57 mark of the opening quarter, it was 13-0.
Tatyana Long hit a 17-foot jumper right after that to make it 15-0 before Grayson finally got on the board with 55 seconds left in the opening period, on a layup by Jacie Bennett.
The rest of the night was little more than a workout for the Lady Bears. The highlight of the second quarter came right at the end, when the Blue Devils played some strong defense on a Mount Airy possession and forced Smith to fire up a 3-pointer from NBA range with time running out. Unfortunately for Grayson, it hit nothing but net and left the Lady Bears up 33-10 at the break.
It took two and a half minutes for Mount Airy to push the lead to 40-10 in the third quarter, which under Virginia rules, produces a “mercy rule” running clock as soon as a team’s lead hits 30 in the second half. The teams played the rest of the game with Mount Airy’s reserves on the floor.
Smith ended up leading the Lady Bears with 17 points. Snow had 10, and Long, who had three steals in quick succession during the second quarter, was next with five. Every player on the roster got into the scorebook, however.
Bennett led the Blue Devils with six.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.