Playing a basketball game on Saturday night might not be ideal, but players and fans alike happily filled the gym of Mount Airy High School to see Mount Airy and East Surry do battle.
The Granite Bears (10-4) defeated the Cardinals (11-6) 65-62 after another instant classic. Mount Airy rallied for a victory after trailing most of the game.
Ryan Graham stepped up for the Bears in the absence of Donavon Greene, who picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the first quarter. Graham finished with a team-high 20 points while shooting 44 percent from the field. The senior also grabbed eight rebounds in the Bears’ victory.
Mount Airy struggled in the beginning despite finishing the game strong. Players failed to convert at the rim and made small mistakes that East Surry took advantage of.
East Surry surrendered the lead twice in the first quarter, at 4-2 and 5-4, but then jumped ahead until midway through the second quarter. A 3-pointer from Jefferson Boaz ignited the Cards’ streak and put them up 7-5 with 5:21 left in the first quarter.
John Marion followed up on Boaz’s triple with back-to-back baskets of his own. The duo of Marion and Boaz outscored Mount Airy 16-11 in the first quarter.
Typical of a rivalry game, the foul count was 6-5 after eight minutes of play. Early fouls from Mount Airy’s Donavon Greene and East Surry’s Colby Guy led to a number of different line-ups by each team.
The teams traded baskets in the second quarter, so much so that it wasn’t until the 3:31 mark that a team scored two uninterrupted baskets.
East Surry entered the bonus with 6:10 remaining in the second quarter, but struggled to convert from the charity stripe. The Cards shot 4-for-8 from the line in the quarter despite shooting 8-for-10 in the other three quarters.
Free throw misses didn’t doom the Cardinals, however, as they maintained their lead throughout the quarter. Quincy Smith had eight points in the period. Boaz, the only other Cardinal to score in the second quarter, also had eight points in that span.
Down 28-19, Mount Airy fought back into the game when Donavon Greene scored five straight while playing with three fouls. An and-1 from Graham capped off an 8-0 Mount Airy run.
With only a one-point lead, East Surry outscored the Bears 6-2 in the final 2:39 of the half to take a 34-29 lead at halftime.
Mount Airy continued to fight for the lead in the third quarter, but kept getting pushed back by East. The Bears cut the lead to one right out of the gate and then tied the game at 38 before the Cardinals reclaimed the lead.
Marion was the only Cardinal to score in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Once the game was tied at 38, Smith scored six straight.
The lead was once again reduced to two points following a dunk from Arrington. Dillon Mosley then made his scoring debut with a 3-pointer to silence the crowd and keep the Cards ahead.
Boaz added a basket from downtown to put East up 50-44 with just 32 seconds remaining in the third. Aggressive play from Arrington put him on the free-throw line twice before the quarter ended. The senior shot 4-for-5 from the line in this span to make the score 50-48, with East Surry still leading.
Arrington went to the line once again to begin the fourth quarter and tied the game. An acrobatic pass from Greg Greene gave Issac King an open layup that gave Mount Airy the lead.
East Surry turned the ball over twice in the opening minutes. Mount Airy was able to finish in transition both times. The Cards also failed to score a field goal until the 3:01 mark.
Trailing by five points for the first time all night, East Surry evened the score with a trey from Caleb Hearn and a fast break finish from Boaz.
Then it was Mount Airy’s turn to score five straight. Greg Greene scored five of his 15 points in the final quarter. Graham also made two trips to the line and converted on all four attempts.
Boaz made a layup with 13.5 seconds to go, but the Bears’ lead was too much. The Granite Bears won their second straight conference match-up, 65-62.
Both the Cards and Bears will face top-10 opponents on January 24. East Surry will host South Stokes, while Mount Airy will host Bishop McGuinness.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith