Mount Airy did everything it needed to do to earn a Senior Night victory over top-ranked Winston-Salem Prep on Friday night. Everything but one, that was.
The sixth-ranked Granite Bears had the Phoenix on the ropes as the fourth quarter got under way. Nineteen seconds into the final period, Caleb Arrington let fly with an off-balance 3-pointer and gave his team its biggest lead of the night at 59-52. At this point, Mount Airy (13-6, 5-3 Northwest 1A Conference) had run off 11 straight points.
One expects a team ranked No. 1 in the state not to go down easily, and the Phoenix didn’t. Prep (17-3, 7-0), led by senior guard Daivien Williamson, responded with 11 straight points of its own to lead 62-59 with 5:35 remaining. Williamson, who ended the game with 38 points, got eight on them in this run.
The Phoenix led for all but two seconds of the time that remained. With 52 seconds to play, Greg Greene drove the ball to the basket and scored to put the Bears back on top 68-67. After some controversy in the endgame, Prep regained the lead and went on to win 75-73.
If there was anything for Mount Airy to rue, it was its poor free-throw shooting in that crucial stretch of the game. In a contest that was highly physical and which saw two Prep players foul out, the Bears made just two of nine free throws in the fourth quarter. The Phoenix, meanwhile, made 10 of 11 in that time, and this ultimately allowed them to escape the Granite City with their 14th consecutive victory.
Prep led 67-63 with 1:54 to play when Ryan Graham hit a 3-pointer. After Prep’s Justice Goodloe was whistled for an offensive four, Greg Greene went right to the rim and scored to put the Bears back in front. The Phoenix immediately inbounded the ball and Williamson scored at the other end two seconds later, officially. In reality, there was an administrative issue at the scorer’s table and the operators sounded the horn twice in an attempt to get the officials’ attention. By the time play was stopped, Williamson had scored (with some of the Bears believing that play hadn’t begun) and been awarded an and-one.
The officials then took a few minutes to sort things out and decided to count Williamson’s basket. He made the free throw and the Phoenix led 70-68. Over the next 35 seconds, he made three of four additional free throws while the Bears missed two, and it was 73-68 when Arrington scored with 15 seconds left.
There was still a chance, but Prep got the ball to Williamson yet again and he made his his free throws. Graham hit another three with three seconds to play, but the Bears were out of time-outs.
Arrington had a hot hand early in the game. Mount Airy started all five of its seniors and they more than held their own. It was 4-2 in favor of the Bears when Coach Levi Goins subbed for the first time. Two 3-pointers from Arrington gave his team early leads of 7-2 and 11-7, but the Phoenix led 18-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Prep came out strong in the second quarter and had surged to its biggest lead at 32-25 when Greg Greene stepped up an hit a three. Moments later, he stole the ball and sent it ahead to Arrington for two more. The teams traded blows right before the half and Prep went to the locker room ahead 38-36.
The lead changed hands seven times in the third quarter, the last coming when Arrington tipped in his own miss with 14 seconds left. Greg Greene stole the Prep inbounds and scored to give Mount Airy a 56-52 edge with a quarter to go.
Arrington led the Bears with 22 points. Graham added 19, Greg Greene 16, and Donavon Greene 11 to go with several blocked shots. Corey Rutherford, with 11, was the only other Prep player to reach double figures.