WINSTON-SALEM — The Mount Airy Bears usually have a lot more games under their belt come Christmastime. The Bears’ late start put them at a distinct disadvantage against an impressive East Forsyth team.
In only their sixth game of the season, Mount Airy (4-2) fell to East Forsyth (7-2) 76-69 in the first round of the Frank Spencer Classic.
The third-seeded Eagles wasted little time in exerting their dominance in the Myers Tire Bracket. East Forsyth’s Shamar Watkins and Travis Samuels combined for 14 points in the first quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Caleb Arrington and Ryan Graham responded with some sharpshooting on the Bears’ behalf. Arrington knocked down a pair of triples and Graham added five points in the first quarter.
A stout Eagle defense limited Mount Airy’s opportunities to score inside early on, which led to the Bears taking a number of shots beyond the arc. The Eagles also outrebounded the Bears by a significant margin in the first quarter.
Following a timeout at 3:58, East scored six straight points to end the quarter. The Granite Bears were held scoreless in this period, giving the Eagles a 20-11 lead after one quarter of play.
East Forsyth’s Tyren Hairston continued the scoring barrage for his team with five straight points to start the second quarter. It wasn’t until 5:53 that a basket from Arrington broke the near-six minute drought by the Bears.
Down 27-13, Mount Airy took advantage of the Eagles’ foul trouble to get to the charity stripe. The Granite Bears scored six of their 12 second quarter points from the free-throw line.
Donavon and Gregory Greene helped the Bears cut the East lead to 10 with a pair of put-backs. This margin wouldn’t last, however, as East Forsyth outscored the Bears 8-2 to end the half up 39-23.
Arrington looked to chip away at the seemingly unconquerable lead of the Eagles in the third quarter and nearly did so.
Arrington and Donavon Greene came out of the gate and outscored the Eagles 8-4 in the quarter’s opening minutes. A steal from Arrington resulted in a dunk from Gregory Greene, forcing East Forsyth to regroup with a timeout.
The game plan of the Eagles to contain Arrington didn’t work, however, as the senior continued to score from all over. Arrington led the Bears on a 13-5 run in the final 3:40 of the quarter to cut the lead to 53-48. A buzzer beater from Arrington capped off a 15-point performance for the guard.
Mount Airy looked to carry momentum into the quarter in hopes of regaining the lead for the first time since 3-2. East’s Josh Mahaffey and Savon Brintley prevented this with a pair of early buckets.
Donavon Greene kept the Bears competitive, but picked up his fourth foul early in the quarter. To make matters worse, Arrington left the game with 4:52 remaining with an apparent leg injury.
Zach Hall and Gregory Greene each knocked down a pair of free throws to put the game at 63-59. Watkins and Samuels kept the game out of reach with free throws of their own following four from the Bears.
It then became a shootout from the charity stripe. Jimmy Nichols made his mark with five straight made foul shots to keep the Eagles ahead. Watkins and Gregory Greene each tallied four made foul shots apiece.
Without defensive stops, the Bears couldn’t cut into the Eagles lead before time expired, giving East Forsyth the victory at 76-69.
Arrington led all scorers with 26 before his fourth quarter injury, followed by Watkins with 22, and Donavon Greene with 17.
Mount Airy will face the loser of South Stokes and Mount Tabor today at 11 a.m. at West Forsyth High School in the consolation round of the tournament.
Atkins 61, North Surry 46
When North Surry and Western Piedmont Athletic Conference newcomer Atkins met for the first time 14 days ago, it took overtime before the Camels were able to score a 50-47 victory over the Greyhounds.
North had hoped for better luck against Atkins in Monday’s opening game of the Pepsi Bracket of the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic, but the the Hounds came up short again, falling 61-46 in the day’s first game at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
The Hounds dropped into the consolation bracket and will play at Parkland High School today at 12:30 p.m. against another conference rival, Carver. The Yellow Jackets (3-7) lost 70-44 to R.J. Reynolds in their opening game of the tournament.
The winner of this game will play for fifth place on Thursday at 12:30, also at Parkland. The loser will play for seventh place in the game prior, at 11 a.m.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith