For years, teams knew that if they came into the Mount Airy gym and took on one of Howard Mayo’s teams, they would have to battle hard for a victory.
Mayo doesn’t coach the Lady Bears anymore, but as North Surry can attest, he’s still tough to beat.
The Lady Greyhounds advanced to tonight’s championship game of the Lady Bear Holiday Classic, but not without a fight from Mayo and his Galax Maroon Tide squad. Galax (3-3 overall) led 42-39 with four minutes left to play on Wednesday night, and it took a 15-0 game-ending run to finally knock the Maroon Tide out and send North Surry to tonight’s championship game.
“I watched Galax play last night, and I like (Mayo’s) five starters,” said North Surry coach Shane Slate. “He has some quality players, and I felt like we would have our hands full on the defensive side matching up with them.”
The Lady Hounds (8-5) will once again face a stern challenge. Their opponent for the final, as expected, is the host Lady Bears, who routed Forbush 70-38 in the night’s first semifinal. Mount Airy (8-0) was expected by many to receive a challenge from Forbush, but hit 10 3-pointers in the first half and led 46-21 at the break. The Lady Falcons (11-2) were never able to close the gap and trailed by as many as 37 at one point in the game.
Forbush and Galax will play for third place at 5 p.m., with the championship to follow around 6:30.
North Surry 54, Galax 42
Although Coach Mayo had his team well-prepared and they fought hard against the Lady Hounds, Slate felt like his own team had played into Galax’ hands by not being patient offensively.
“We were just impatient tonight, and the reason we had played so well in the last three games is that we had been patient,” the Lady Hound coach said. “We missed some easy ones, had turnovers, threw bad passes and hit people in the back of the head, that kind of stuff.”
The Maroon Tide took advantage of the Lady Hounds’ misfiring offense and built an early seven-point lead, going up 9-2 on a pair of free throws by Essence Brown five minutes into the game. North used an aggressive full-court pressure defense to force some turnovers that led to easy baskets, and finally took the lead for the first time after Taylor Duncan stole the ball underneath the basket and laid it in for a 12-11 lead a minute into the second quarter. The Lady Hounds built the lead to five points by halftime, but missed several free throws and layups that might have breathe easier.
North Surry opened the second half on a 7-2 run and built its lead to 10 for the first time, but once again, the Maroon Tide refused to fold. They scored the last six points of the third quarter and trailed just 35-31 after Brown sank two free throws with six seconds left in the period.
Galax wasn’t done. The Tide regained the lead with 5:10 to play, when Brown flashed open along the right baseline and knocked down a 3-pointer for a 38-37 lead. Tiana Shuff responded for the Lady Hounds, but then Shea Foxx put Galax back on top. At the four-minute mark, Foxx out-muscled a North Surry player for a rebound and then swished an eight-footer. When the Lady Hounds came up empty at the other end and Galax got the ball back, it looked like North might be swept away by a Maroon Tide.
The Lady Hounds’ Mikaela Johnson provided the turning point. With 3:21 left, she knocked a ball loose on the defensive end and then took it all the way in the other direction, scoring to get her team within one. When Galax failed to score on its next possession, Elle Sutphin found Maggie Hawks running out in the break for two more and a 43-42 North lead. Johnson hit a short jumper in the lane with 1:34 left to make it 45-42, and then Galax turned the ball over on its next two opportunities, leading to two more easy baskets and putting it away.
Hawks led the team with 12 points. Johnson added 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Sutphin tallied eight and Martha Holt six.
Mount Airy 70, Forbush 38
A little-known fact about bears is that it’s unwise to get in a footrace with one. They can move at up to 30 mph.
The visiting Lady Falcons made that mistake on Wednesday night, and paid dearly for it in the first semifinal game.
“We just wanted to come out and play our game, and we knew Forbush liked to run as well,” said Mount Airy coach Angela Mayfield. “I just told them to out-run them. I feel like we can out-run a lot of teams, and if we’re willing to expend that energy, pushing the ball up the floor, good things will happen.”
The Lady Bears scored the first seven points of the game, the last coming on a 3-pointer from Shaunae Sawyers just 73 seconds in, and forced Forbush coach Bradley Shore to expend a time-out. His Parkley Hennings got the visitors on the board with two free throws, but that didn’t slow down Mount Airy at all. In quick succession, Madeline Mayfield scored off a fastbreak, then Asherah Smith threw long to Sawyers for an easy deuce, and Jo Snow fired in back-to-back 3-pointers from the same spot on the left wing. At the 3:22 mark, Shore was calling time again, with the Lady Falcons trailing 17-6.
The Lady Bears continued to pour it on. Snow and Sawyers each had another three before the end of the opening period, which ended with Mount Airy on top 25-9.
The second quarter was more of the same, except that Arry Ward got in on the fun by gunning in two treys of her own on back-to-back possessions. Ward opened the third quarter with another three, then scored on a putback to push the lead to 30, at at 51-21 with 6:50 left n the third. The Lady Bears led by as many as 35 in the quarter and were up 31 going to the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, Ward came back in for a few minutes and had blocked shots on three consecutive possessions, while a lineup consisting of her, one other starter and three reserves briefly built the lead back to 37 before Mayfield completely cleared the bench.
Sawyers led the Lady Bears, who have won by an average of 37.4 points in their eight games, with 24 points. Snow added 23, Ward 11, Amber Arnett six, with Mayfield, Megan Fleming and Tatyana Long each having two. Casey Brown led Forbush with 12 points. Hennings and Nicole Scott added six each, Sidney Matthews five, and Calyn Davis four. Hope Grimes and Miriana Lyon each had two, and Kara Scott one.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.