The Mount Airy Lady Bears returned to the court Friday and took their first steps on the road to a three-peat. The two-time defending 1A state champions hosted five other teams from North Carolina and Virginia as part of their 15th Annual Team Camp.
Notably absent from Friday’s camp were five familiar faces that were part of the one of the most successful two-year spans in Mount Airy basketball history. Jo Snow, Madeline Mayfield, Asherah Smith, Arry Ward, and Tatyana Long graduated from Mount Airy after winning back-to-back state championships in convincing fashion.
One might wonder how the team would fair in the 2018-2019 season after losing four of five starters. In the 2018 State Championship game, Mount Airy’s seniors contributed to 51 of the team’s 69 points, 25 of 38 rebounds, and 11 of 20 assists. Coach Angela Mayfield realizes the uphill battle that awaits the Bears, but is confident in their ability to overcome adversity.
“It’s not secret that we lost a lot of leadership and a lot of experience from this past season,” Mayfield. “We really just want to get everybody out here and get some of the nerves out of the way and see who is going to contribute in what way.”
Mayfield continued, “We’ve got some returning varsity players that we’re going to rely heavily upon to step up into larger roles this coming season from what they’ve seen in the past.”
If Friday was any indication, the Lady Bears are trending in the right direction. Mount Airy began the day with a blowout win over 4A RJ Reynolds and followed it up with a 22-point victory over 3A Rockingham County.
The rules for Friday’s camp made the game flow easier and put less strain on the players in the off-season. Games were limited to two 20-minute halves with a running clock. The clock stopped only during time outs and in the last minute of each half.
All fouls were one point plus the ball back, except for offensive fouls, which gave a change of possession only. If the shot goes in, it is a 3-point play (4-point if fouled on a made 3-pointer), and change of possession. Free throws were also shot in the last minute of each half regardless of the foul count.
The final game of the day featured Mount Airy and the Cougars of Patrick County High School. The 3A Cougars finished 23-4 in the 2017-2018 season, including a 17-0 record in their region. Despite losing four seniors, the Cougars still proved to be a formidable foe by defeating the Lady Bears 47-43.
The young front-court of Mount Airy had to contend with the height of Patrick County throughout the game. Rising senior Alyssa Cox, the top reserve on last year’s championship team, was often tasked with guarding the Cougars’ tallest player.
“We’re going to have to rebound,” Mayfield said. “We like to run and we like to push the ball up the floor, but you can’t do that if you don’t rebound.”
Cox, along with fellow senior Shaunae Sawyers, did the bulk of the Lady Bears’ scoring. Cox and Sawyers each notched eight points. Bailey Flippen and Lexi Snow are the other rising seniors.
Even with a number of underclassman, Mayfield likes the direction of her team.
“Overall though I really liked what we did today,” Mayfield said. “I liked where we are, but there are definitely a lot of things we need to work on and get better.“
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith