Mount Airy’s boys’ basketball team will be right back on the court less than 24 hours after celebrating Christmas tomorrow.
The Granite Bears have already made a statement this season, getting off to a 4-1 start to the 2017-18 season despite a very late start due to football commitments from some of its players. After opening the season with a 10-point win over a strong 3A South Iredell team, Mount Airy lost to 4A power Panther Creek the next night, but then rolled cross-town rival North Surry and clobbered South Stokes, which came into Friday night’s game as the state’s third-ranked 1A team, according to MaxPreps.
No doubt, once the Bears have played enough games to be ranked, they will be near the top of the rankings themselves, as they have been for the last few seasons. But first, Mount Airy has a title to defend.
As a 1A school playing against 4A teams from the Winston-Salem area, the Bears didn’t rate when they participated in the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic’s Pepsi Bracket a year ago. Seeded fifth out of the eight teams, Mount Airy proceeded to dispatch Glenn, Reagan and Parkland on consecutive nights to walk out of the Joel Coliseum with the championship.
They’ll try to do it again starting Tuesday night — but this time around will be very different.
There are two brackets at every Frank Spencer, one of which always has a slightly stronger field than the other. Last year, the Bears were in the second-tier bracket of the event, while teams like West Forsyth and Winston-Salem Prep battled in the main event. This year, Mount Airy is still seeded low, sixth out of eight teams, but the Bears will be playing in the Myers Tire Bracket, aka the first-tier tournament.
The other seven teams in the field include the aforementioned Titans and Phoenix, with the former as defending champ and the latter as the top seed, and Parkland, North Forsyth, Mount Tabor, South Stokes, and East Forsyth. Mount Airy will open against East Forsyth (6-2) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Joel Coliseum.
Winston-Salem Prep, which won the Northwest 1A Conference title last year but was knocked off by eventual state champ Lincoln Charter in the regional semifinals, is off to a 4-3 start this season, but two of its losses came to out-of-state teams in showcase events, 78-65 to Montgomery (Ala.) Carver and 63-51 to Pekin (Ill.). Prep’s other loss was 65-57 to Piedmont Classical Academy of Greensboro.
South Stokes is also representing the NW1A in the field as its No. 7 seed. The Sauras were ranked third in the state’s 1A ranks until they lost to the Bears on Friday night. South Stokes plays Mount Tabor in the game following Mount Airy’s.
Later rounds of the tournament will be played at West Forsyth High School and at the Coliseum, depending on whether a team keeps winning.
Lady Bears playing in Va.
Mount Airy’s girls get Tuesday off, but then return to action on Wednesday night for another reunion with an old friend.
Last year, the Lady Bears hosted a Christmas tournament of their own, which was organized by former head coach Howard Mayo before he left the Granite City to take over the girls’ program at Galax, closer to his Virginia home. But when a team cancelled on Mount Airy, Mayo ended up bringing his Lady Tide to town and coaching in the tournament after all.
This year, the Lady Bears will return the favor and bring the reigning North Carolina 1A state champs to the Skyline National Bank Christmas Tournament, hosted by none other than the Galax Maroon Tide.
Mount Airy (4-1) played in a holiday tournament in Galax two years ago and made it to the championship game before losing to Forbush, another North Carolina team invited to the event.
The Lady Bears will open the event with a game against Grayson County on Wednesday at 7:30. Grayson is coming off a loss to Galax on Friday, and the Blue Devils (3-3) have played only one North Carolina team so far, losing 37-24 to Alleghany on Dec. 6.
As for Galax, Mayo has his Lady Tide in contention in just his second season. They are 6-2 on the season and ranked No. 3 in the state’s 1A ranks. Galax will play Pulaski Co. at noon on Wednesday.
Alleghany (6-3) is also representing the Tar Heel state in the tournament, along with 7-1 Forbush, which plays Coeburn (Va.) Eastside in the opening round. The Lady Falcons were also part of Mount Airy’s tournament last season.
The tournament will last three days, with the championship game on Friday night.