GALAX — Mount Airy’s girls’ basketball team makes no secret of the fact that it plans to win a lot of hardware this winter.
The first item on the list was signed, sealed and delivered on Friday night, four days after Christmas.
The Lady Bears used a smothering defensive effort and some hot outside shooting as their weapons of choice in the championship game of the Skyline National Bank Christmas Tournament, knocking down six 3-pointers in the first half and cruising to a 52-34 victory over Pulaski County in the final game of the night.
“It’s a nice way to end our Christmas tournament,” said Mount Airy head coach Angela Mayfield, whose team swept through the tournament with decisive wins over Grayson County and Forbush in the first two rounds. “I was very proud of the way we came out. We had a lot of energy and I felt like we rose to the occasion.”
Mount Airy’s seventh straight victory was never really in doubt. The game opened with back-to-back 3-pointers by Shaunae Sawyers and Jo Snow from opposite ends of the floor. After the Cougars got on the board from back-to-back baskets by Amiah Stables and Alexis Phillips, Asherah Smith got in on the fun with a trey of her own. With 3:42 left in the first quarter, Pulaski coach Bradley Sutphin saw his team down 11-4 and called for a break in the action. Stables scored right out of the break, but Madeline Mayfield wasn’t impressed, and spotted up on the right wing to drill the fourth 3-ball of the night for the Lady Bears.
“I always tell them to take what they’ve giving us. Our girls aren’t shy about shooting,” said Coach Mayfield. “Sometimes, we might shoot it a little too much. But I always tell them, if we’ve made several passes and they’re giving us threes, go ahead and take it.”
After that, the rest of the first quarter consisted of more conventional Mount Airy basketball, predicated on swarming defense. Snow stole the ball in the frontcourt and tossed ahead to Smith for a layup. Then Smith got inside and scored another. Sawyers hit a runner in the lane, and then assisted on another score by Smith to make the score 22-8. Phillips made two free throws right before the end of the quarter to stop the Lady Bear blitz.
“We could get open shots and some were falling and some weren’t, but defensively is where we were really able to open up the game,” Coach Mayfield said.
By this time, the Lady Bears had three reserves on the floor, and Alyssa Cox added to Pulaski’s misery by stealing one near midcourt and taking it the other way. Three minutes into the second quarter, Snow hit her team’s fifth three, and at the 1:42 mark, Arry Ward and Bailey Flippen teamed up for the sixth. Ward beat two Cougars to an offensive board, then tossed it back to Flippen, who caught the ball just inside the arc, alertly took one step back and fired away.The Lady Bears took a 32-18 lead into the break.
Mount Airy scored the first eight points of the second half, with Snow and Smith knocked down jumpers, followed by a free throw from Mayfield and then another bomb by Smith to make it 40-18. Snow added another trey later in the quarter, and the Lady Bears ended the period up by 27.
The Lady Bears cleared the bench in the fourth quarter, but Flippen added one more 3-pointer to give Mount Airy nine for the night.
Smith led the team with 20 points. Snow added nine, Sawyers seven, and Madeline Mayfield and Flippen six each.
Earlier in the night, Forbush defeated Alleghany 62-50 in an all-Tar Heel State showdown for third place.
The Lady Bears (7-1 overall) have a game against the Australian National Team on Tuesday night and then get a chance to avenge their only loss of the season on Thursday, when they travel to West Forsyth, the state’s third-ranked 4A team.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.