DANBURY — A clash between the state’s first- and fifth-ranked 1A squads lived up to the hype in the Northwest 1A Athletic Conference Championship.
The Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy Phoenix (22-3, 10-0) have been near unstoppable this season. Prep won 18 straight coming into the championship game. Only two teams were able to get within single digits during that run: South Stokes and Mount Airy.
The Bears (16-8, 6-4) came out and played three great quarters of basketball, even leading at halftime. But against Winston-Salem Prep, great isn’t good enough.
The Phoenix overcame a four-point halftime deficit with 53 second-half points to secure a 93-82 win and the tournament championship yet again.
Even in defeat, Mount Airy scored more than 80 points for just the sixth time this season. Donavon Greene and Caleb Arrington combined for 47 points.
The Granite Bears came out scoring and kept pace with the Phoenix for most of the game. After Mount Airy took an initial 5-4 lead off an Alex Hall 3-pointer, the Phoenix scored six straight.
Arrington and the Bears attacked the basket early to establish an interior presence. Arrington and Donavon Greene converted on contested layups and free throws to give the Bears 11 first-quarter points.
The Phoenix used a similar strategy. CJ Watson and Daivien Williamson ran the ball in transition throughout the quarter, not even attempting a 3-pointer. A buzzer-beater from Justice Goodloe put Prep up 14-11 at the end of the first.
A meticulous game of chess soon turned into an all-out offensive display in the second quarter. Prep’s Chaz Gwyn, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, scored 11 in the second.
While Gwyn handled the outside shooting, Watson held down the paint. All of Watson’s eight second-quarter points were within 15 feet of the basket.
The Phoenix had an incredible 26 points in the second quarter, but this still didn’t compare to the Bears awakening.
Mount Airy flirted with the lead in the first four minutes of the second quarter. Both Donavon and Greg Greene attacked the basket and made it to the line a combined six times in the quarter.
Whether shooting from the perimeter or converting a fast-break dunk, the Greene’s couldn’t seem to miss. The duo combined nearly outscored the entire Prep team in the second quarter with 25 points.
Greg Greene put the Bears ahead 27-25 with 4:10 remaining. A monster performance from Gwyn kept the Phoenix in the ball game, but it was Mount Airy that set the pace. Gwyn scored the Phoenix’s final 11 points of the quarter to cut the Bears’ lead to 44-40 at the half.
Foul trouble limited Donavon and Greg Greene in the third quarter. This gave Arrington the green light to shoot and he certainly took advantage of it.
Arrington had 12 of the Bears’ 18 points in the quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers. The Greenes had the remaining six points.
It’s one thing to get ahead of Winston-Salem Prep, and an entirely different ballgame trying to stay ahead. Mount Airy’s 57-49 lead was reduced to nothing when Prep scored eight straight in less than 60 seconds.
Gwyn continued to dazzle, but it was the Phoenix’s ability to score as a team that put them back in the driver’s seat.
In addition to Gwyn’s two 3-pointers, Corey Rutherford added two of his own. Williamson, Watson, and Zack Austin rounded out the score sheet for Prep.
Having scored eight straight to end the quarter, Prep took a 67-62 heading into the fourth.
Domino after domino fell to make things worse for the Bears. Winston-Salem Prep continued its’ run into the fourth quarter by scoring the first five points.
Down 10 points, Mount Airy needed to find ways to score and keep both Greenes out of foul trouble. It wasn’t until 6:32 that Arrington put a stop to the Phoenix’s run.
Things went from bad to worse when Greg Greene fouled out with 5:05 remaining. A 3-pointer from Ryan Graham put the Bears within single digits at 76-67, but the margin wouldn’t last.
Prep entered the bonus with more than six minutes left in the game and they took full advantage of that. The Phoenix attempted 19 free throws in the fourth quarter, converting on 15.
It was the beginning of the end when Arrington fouled out at 3:56. Graham knocked down two more triples but it was too late.
Winston-Salem Prep scored at least 26 points in each of the final three quarters to pull away with a 93-82 victory in the conference championship.
Gwyn led the Phoenix with 33 points, followed by Williamson with 21, and Watson with 14.
The Bears were led by Donavon Greene with 26 points, Arrington had 21, and Graham finished with 12.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith