PILOT MOUNTAIN — With six minutes left in Friday night’s game between host East Surry and county rival North Surry, it appeared that the narrative was already written.
The problem was that the players in red weren’t quite ready to call retreat.
The Greyhounds had just completed a 10-0 run and taken their biggest lead of the game on a 3-pointer by Eli Riggs two minutes into the final quarter. North held a 31-23 lead and the Cardinals looked dead in the water, having failed to score for more than three minutes.
“This was two young teams that are still growing,” said East Surry coach David Johnson. “(North Surry coach) Kevin (King) is going to have a good bunch. They play really hard and they’re going to get better, really quick.
“With us, we just need gym time and we’re going to get better, too. I think we were down six or eight in the fourth quarter and had a 15-1 run. That says a lot for what I have over here, that they didn’t give up, they trusted everything we were doing, and they kept playing.”
The Cardinals may have grown up a little bit in those last six minutes. East Surry executed masterfully and played hard-nosed defense down the stretch, ending the game on that 15-1 run to stun their visitors 38-32.
The come-from-behind win lifted East Surry, playing at home for the first time in the 2017-18 season, to a 3-0 start. On Wednesday night, the Cardinals had won 50-35 at Elkin, then blasted East Wilkes 67-31 on Thursday.
“This was our third game in three days. The legs weren’t there, but I’ve always told them that you can put in the effort on the defensive end,” Johnson said. “This week, we’ve given up 35, 31 and now 32 points. The defense is doing what we want. I know some of that is the other teams missing shots, but we’re limiting people to one shot and getting on the boards.”
Neither team looked sharp in the early going, and nearly four minutes were gone before the Cardinals’ Caleb Hearn hit a 3-pointer off the left wing. However, North’s Riggs did the same at the other end a half-minute later, and as the game moved along, the teams finally began to find the bottom of the basket. North Surry was the stronger team for most of the first half, and led by as many as six points before settling for a 17-13 halftime lead.
After the break, the Cardinals quickly caught up with some nifty inside work by sophomore Jefferson Boaz. The Hounds responded, and the third quarter featured six lead changes and two ties. North Surry went into the final quarter ahead 24-23 after Carson Draughn swished a three from the right baseline in the final minute of the third.
Draughn’s bomb started a drought for the Cardinals that appeared fatal. Riggs hit another three 40 seconds into the fourth quarter. After a Cameron Smith free throw put the Hounds up by five, North’s Chase Swartz stole the ball near midcourt and raced into the East end, then threw a crosscourt pass to a wide-open Riggs for three and a 31-23 lead.
It took a minute before Boaz started the Cardinal comeback with a short jumper inside. With 2:46 remaining, John Marion sank a pair of free throws to pull East back within 32-28. Johnson called a time-out, and whatever he told his team, they got even tougher. One of his players took a charge, and at the other end, Marion took a pass in the post, got the Hounds to collapse on him, then fired out to Hearn on a wing. The senior swished a three with 2:06 left to get the Cardinals within one point.
The Greyhounds committed a foul at the other end, and the home team kept coming. Marion drew a foul with 1:46 left and made both ends of a one-and-one. Riggs missed a three at the other end, and Quincy Smith made two more free throws for the Cardinals.
Three more free throws and another key defensive rebound by Marion sealed the win in the last 38 seconds.
“Hitting those free throws at the end was big,” said Johnson.
Riggs’ three treys led North Surry with nine points. Badgett added eight and Draughn seven. For the Cardinals, Boaz had 11 and Marion 10, including seven of eight free throws and a key assist during the rally.
East Surry returns to the road on Tuesday night and travels to Surry Central. The Hounds will travel to North Forsyth on Wednesday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.