GALAX — The Mount Airy Lady Bears advanced to the final of the Skyline National Bank Christmas Tournament with a 56-37 victory over Forbush.
Both the Bears and Falcons downed their first round opponents with ease. Mount Airy decimated Grayson County 46-18 while Forbush scored 73 points in a 14-point win over Eastside.
Both squads entered the game looking for a true test of strength. Forbush, 8-1 before Thursday’s contest, won seven of eight games by 10+ points. The Falcons’ lone loss had come at the hands of the 8-2 Cardinals of East Wilkes High School by only four points.
Mount Airy fell short in the first game of the season in double overtime against 4A powerhouse West Forsyth, but have been on a tear ever since. No team has scored within 14 points of the Bears (a trend that continued against Forbush), including three straight games where Mount Airy held its opponent to 18 or fewer points.
Both the Bears and Falcons came out swinging. Asherah Smith knocked down two shots inside the paint early, while Forbush’s Brittney Gammons responded with a dagger 3-pointer.
A drive by Nicole Scott gave Forbush a 5-4 lead before a 7-0 Bear run, sparked by a 3-pointer from Madeline Mayfield.
Following a timeout with 3:01 remaining, only three combined points were scored in the remainder of the quarter. Mount Airy was getting shots, but were being heavily out-rebounded by the Falcons’ Parkley Hennings.
A triple from Miriana Lyon was the sole basket of the first quarter’s final minutes as Mount Airy led 11-8 after one.
It took nearly 90 seconds for a team to score in the second quarter. A putback from Mayfield and a coast-to-coast layup from Jo Snow put the Bears up 15-8.
Kara Scott cut the Bear lead to a handful, while the Falcons held their opponents scoreless for four minutes. Despite out-rebounding Mount Airy, Forbush struggled to finish at the rim.
Smith was the only Bear to score inside of six minutes. Smith had a pair of layups, a 3-pointer, and a free throw for eight second-quarter points and a 23-15 halftime lead.
Turnovers doomed the Falcons in the second quarter. Despite their improved defensive effort, Forbush had a number of empty possessions.
Mount Airy came out of halftime with a 90-second possession that resulted in a 3-pointer from Snow. Smith added another bucket to put the Bears up 13.
Forbush was able to score five points on a pair of free throws from Hennings and a 3-pointer from Lyon. However, the Mount Airy offense didn’t let up as the quarter progressed. Snow knocked down another 3-pointer as the Bears began a 10-2 run over the next three minutes of play.
The Bears’ run put them up 41-20 with just over three minutes to play in the quarter. Scott’s layup and a free throw each from Gammons and Sarah Hutchens rounded out the scoring for the Falcons in the quarter.
Mayfield and Snow each took trips to the line that put Mount Airy up 44-23 at the end of the third quarter. The Lady Bears outscored Forbush 21-8 in the quarter.
The Falcons weren’t able to knock down a field goal until nearly four minutes into the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Shaunae Sawyers and Alyssa Cox continued to build the Bears’ lead.
Both teams entered the bonus in the quarter and made a number of trips to the line. The score slowly increased on each side as time winded down. At the end of regulation, Mount Airy left with a 56-37 victory.
Smith led all scorers with 20 points despite sitting for a large part of the fourth quarter. Smith was followed by teammates Mayfield and Snow with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Bears will compete in the finals of the tournament tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Pulaski County.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith