Reserve Garrett VanHoy hit two critical free throws and Austin Taylor rattled in a baseline floater as the Bears came from behind to beat Elkin 50-49 in the final seconds.
Mount Airy trailed 40-32 at the start of the fourth quarter and were still down 47-43 with 1:59 left.
The Bears kept clawing back and took the lead with 10 seconds left on Taylor’s basket.
Elkin raced the ball up to halfcourt and called a timeout with 4.5 seconds left to set up a winning attempt. However, Taylor picked off the ball near midcourt and raced around the floor so that the Elks couldn’t catch him to commit a foul.
In the early going, it looked like the Elks might run away from the Bears.
Mount Airy got the first points on an inside basket by Sean Best. Then Elkin ran off nine straight points behind guard Frank Miller, who had nine points in the quarter.
In the second, Elkin’s Sam Lane got hot and carried the team to a 23-13 lead with 4:15 left in the half.
Taylor and Carson Mounce scored buckets, and Khaleel Dailey made two free throws to cut into the margin. The Bears trailed 26-21 at the break.
Elkin stretched the team to eight at the end of three.
Mount Airy’s inside tandem of 6-foot-8 Mounce and 6-foot-7 Best had contributed 17 of the 32 points. The other three starters (Taylor, Dailey and Caleb Horton) had just 12 points.
Taylor, who was QB of the football team, began to quarterback the Bears into a rally. He opened the fourth with a three and finished the quarter with 10 points.
Austin always has that mentality to want to take over, said Coach Levi Goins.
Asked what he said to the team between the third and fourth periods, Goins said, “We’ve only had two practices with all the varsity guys. Every time we huddled I said the same thing: we need to slow down and be more patient.”
Taylor, Horton and VanHoy are among the seven athletes who had to finish the football season before moving over to basketball. The others are Benji Hicks, Pablo Garcia, Darius Gwyn and Chris McNeill.
Because the rest of the team was only five players, the Bears couldn’t even scrimmage until this week.
At the start, the team seemed mentally unprepared because of the lack of repetitions together.
In that first possession of the fourth quarter, the offense patiently passed the ball around until a good shot came up.
“We had three ball reversals for the first time in the game, instead of settling for the first shot off a screen,” he said.
As for the rest of the fourth quarter, he said that the players weren’t making silly turnovers themselves, while a full-court man-to-man pressure seemed to cause Elkin some problems.
“They’ve got some really athletic players across the board,” he said, but sometimes when a team has the lead, they started playing not to lose and that may have gotten to the Elks.
Three minutes into the quarter, the Bears had scored nine straight to make it 40-39.
However, Gwyn was called for a questionable foul on Frank Miller on a three-point attempt. Miller sank all three shots for a four-point lead.
Goins said he thought to himself that a team could either let that play take the wind out of its sails or bear down and try harder.
The Bears did just that. Dailey made two baskets in transition, and Taylor hit two shots to close to 47-46 with less than a minute remaining.
The home fans cheered sarcastically when a foul was called on the Elks. Through the first 14 minutes of the second half, the Bears had been whistled for eight fouls to the Elks’ two.
Still, with 39.8 seconds left, VanHoy got an offensive rebound and was fouled. He hit both shots for a 48-47 lead, the Bears’ first lead since 2-0.
Tre King, the reigning 1A regional high jump champion, was fouled with 26.8 seconds left and hit both to retake the lead 49-48.
The Bears attacked the basket, but had the ball knocked away with 13.7 seconds left. Off the inbounds, Taylor hit the winning shot with 10 seconds left.
“Intensity, that’s our focus,” Goins said earlier in the week. “We want to push the ball up and down the floor and use our assets to our advantage.”
There are times when the Bears will go with both tall players and use that height, but the team also has some great guards with quickness, he said.
Taylor led the Bears with 16 points. Best added 10 and Mounce seven, all in the first half.
Dailey scored six, Horton four and VanHoy had all five of his points in the second half.
The Bears finish the tournament this evening against Forbush. The game will follow the girls game that starts at 5:30 p.m.
Reach Jeff Linville at email@example.com or at 719-1920.