WINSTON-SALEM — The 42nd annual Frank Spencer Holiday Classic Pepsi Bracket Champions are the Granite Bears of Mount Airy. A 69-66 victory over Parkland High School on Wednesday night sealed their title run.
There were two brackets, the Champion Bracket and the Pepsi Bracket. Mount Airy entered the Pepsi bracket seeded fifth, but came out as Champions. The Bears (6-3) outscored Parkland 29-26 in a wild fourth quarter to claim the title at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem.
Within 30 seconds into the ballgame, the Mustangs scored first. Ryan Graham put Mount Airy on the board with a three-pointer. Donavon Greene collected six points in the first quarter. With one second left on the clock, Harrison Joyce chipped in with his first two points, and the Bears held a 15-12 lead with the opening period in the books.
Donavon Greene, Gregory Greene, Caleb Arrington and Graham all had a basket in the second, while Joyce picked up one from the line. Mount Airy had a five-point lead when Parkland head coach Travis Holcomb-Frye motioned for a timeout, and the Mustangs responded by surging back into the lead, 26-25, at halftime.
Mount Airy added sixteen points in the third, all attributed to Sparks, Arrington, Graham and Donavon Greene. Parkland build its lead to a 32-24 score after a minute and a half of the second half. Mount Airy coach Levi Goins called for a timeout in hopes for his team’s defense to lock down on the Mustangs. Moments later, Jackson Smith hit a jumper, his first score on the night. On back-to-back possessions, Sparks and Arrington contribute with a basket each. Midway through the quarter, Donavon Greene made his way to the line and collected two; this was a pivotal moment for the Mount Airy as they were back even with Parkland. Then Sparks hit another basket, which regained for Mount Airy. The score seesawed the rest of the period and the teams went to the fourth quarter deadlocked at 40.
Parkland scored first in the fourth, by a free throw, but within the same minute, Donavon Greene was fouled while collecting a basket and brought back three after he had finished. Joyce hit a three-pointer, which helped give his team a little breathing room on the scoreboard. Joyce tried again, but after his miss, Donavon Greene had the rebound for a put-back bucket. Thirty seconds later, Greene battled through the paint and scored again. Later, Smith found an open Joyce under the hoop. Mount Airy held a 52-43 lead with 3:48 left in regulation.
Down the stretch, Arrington went to the line on three separate occasions, and went 6 for 6. Arrington finished with eight points in the fourth quarter. Donavon Green dunked within the last two minutes and finished the game with eleven points in the fourth. Graham took three points from the line, while Jackson Smith tallied two.
With 20 seconds left, Mount Airy held a five-point lead. Arrington went to line with 11.8 seconds to play and netted two. Greene would also go to the line and bring back two as well, during the last four seconds of the game. Mount Airy shot 70% in the fourth.
“We kept our heads up and we kept our cool… even when we were down by eight, we still kept it together and we ended up executing offensively a couple of times,” said Goins. “We had just enough there at the end to win the game. They (Parkland) really scared us quite a bit. Every time we would go down a make a good play, they would come back with a three.”
Donavon Greene led Mount Airy with 11 total rebounds, and 21 points. He also went 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.
Mount Airy’s members of the All-Tournament Team were Arrington and Greene. The Most Valuable Player of the tournament would also be a Granite Bear; it was Sparks who claimed the honor.
“This tournament has been great preparation going into conference play next week. It’s also nice to get some recognition for our school, our program, and all the hard work that we have put in, but more than anything we are looking forward into upcoming conference play,” said Goins.