BOONVILLE — The 2017 Cook’s Holiday Classic Tournament came to a close on Friday night, and the Starmount Rams took home the Championship plaque. The Rams battled East Surry in a four-quarter barnburner that saw host Starmount take a 48-46 win over the Cardinals.
Griffin Cass made two free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining to give the host school the victory after East Surry had used a 9-2 run to tie the score with 33.2 seconds remaining.
In the first two quarters, East Surry had the upper hand over the Rams. Jefferson Boaz opened up the first quarter by making the first two baskets to give East Surry a 4-0 lead. Griffin Cass was able to cut the Cardinals’ lead in half as he was fouled and made both of his free throw shots. The 4-2 lead was turned into a 7-2 lead as Boaz made his third basket of the night, this time from beyond the arc. The Cardinals extended their lead 9-2 after John Marion beat Andrew Smythers down low for a layup.
Starmount was able to cut East Surry’s lead to one point as Cass made two two-point shots, and Ethan Barnes put up a shot of his own. With a 9-8 lead, East Surry’s Caleb Hearn knocked in a 3-pointer to open up another scoring run for the Cardinals. Boaz used his size to his advantage as he put in a pair of two-point baskets to give East Surry a 16-8 lead. Cass kept the Rams in the game as he put in another shot for Starmount for a 16-10 game. The first quarter came to a close with Trey Dezern putting in two baskets for the Rams, and Marion knocking in a shot for East Surry. The Cardinals were hanging on to an 18-14 lead over Starmount at the end of the first.
Things slowed down for both teams in the second quarter as East Surry put up six points, and the Rams put up nine. Eric Wiles started off the quarter by putting the Rams within two points of the Cardinals. Quincy Smith was able to take East Surry’s lead back to four points with a shot of his own, but the lead didn’t last long. Starmount put up a shot which brought the Rams within one point. Brendon Eads came into the game for the Rams, and put in a 3-pointer for a 20-19 game. Starmount was able to tie the game at 20 when Cass put up a free throw.
Both teams relied heavily on defense in the final three minutes of the first half. The Rams were able to put up two baskets as Wiles put in a two-point shot and Dezern made a free throw. East Surry tied the game 23-23 as Smith hit a 3-pointer, and then the Cardinals took a one point lead as Smith made a free throw. At halftime, East Surry held a 24-23 lead over Starmount.
The final two quarters saw the game heat up for both teams. Each team scored 11 points in the third quarter as the Cardinals held on to a 35-34 lead.
In the fourth quarter the afterburners were turned on, as the Rams and Cardinals put on a show.
Boaz put up a two-pointer for a 37-35 lead, then Starmount answered back as Eads put in a layup to tie the score. Starmount was able to go on a scoring run for the next few plays as Dezern knocked in two shots and a free throw, and Eads put in a shot. Starmount had its first substantial lead of the night, with a 44-37 advantage.
As time was winding down, it looked like the Rams would be able to play the game out, but East Surry had a different idea. The Cardinals battled back to tie the game with 33.2 seconds left in the game. Hearn set up on the outside arc and knocked in a 3-pointer to tie the game at 46. The game started to go back and forth with steals by both teams that stalled before a basket was made. With 2.7 seconds left, Starmount had the ball and drove down the court. Cass went up for a shot and was fouled by the Cardinals. This sent him to the free-throw line. Cass was calm under pressure and made both of his shots to put Starmount back ahead. Time ran out before the Cardinals could respond, and the Rams were able to take the win and the championship.
Cass led Starmount (9-1), the state’s 10th-ranked 1A team according to MaxPreps.com, with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Dezern added 11 points and four rebounds, while Eads tallied eight. Smythers had a big night on the boards, with eight rebounds to go with his five points.
Boaz had 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Cardinals. Hearn added 12 points, while Marion grabbed nine boards.
The loss drops East Surry to 9-3 on the season. The Cardinals opened the tournament with wins over Forbush (76-49) and Elkin (68-41). They return to action on Jan. 3 at home against East Wilkes.