Mount Airy came into Monday night’s opener of the Northwest 1A Conference Tournament as a heavy favorite against North Stokes, but head coach Levi Goins wasn’t taking the Vikings lightly.
The fifth-ranked Granite Bears had missed out a chance to possibly grab the No. 2 seed out of the conference thanks to an upset loss to rival East Surry last week, and North Stokes, despite an 0-10 record in conference play, hasn’t been a pushover. In their most recent game, the Vikings played No. 4 South Stokes even for a half before the Sauras could put them away.
Fortunately, it wasn’t a problem. The Bears came out strong, corrected some mistakes they had made in the loss to the Cardinals, and got back on track with a 62-38 victory. Except for a brief moment when the Vikings (12-12) led 4-3, it was a wire-to-wire win for the Bears.
“North Stokes has been playing very well lately,” said Mount Airy coach Levi Goins. “I was pleased with our energy in a tournament game where our students have to pay to get in. I am really pleased with the outcome.”
Mount Airy (15-7) will travel to North Stokes on Wednesday night and play South Stokes (18-6) in the semifinals. The winner will play either Winston-Salem Prep or Bishop McGuinness for the championship. Bishop beat East Surry 65-60 in the other first-round game on Monday night.
The focus for the Bears on Monday was on defense, where Goins threw the Vikings an early curveball with full-court trapping defense that forced Stokes coach David Anderson to call a time-out after just 49 seconds had been played. Caleb Arrington drew first blood with a 3-pointer for the home team, but then Vikings Layton Helms and Joshua McQuinn scored back-to-back baskets for a 4-3 Stokes lead. Donavon Greene put a quick stop to that by muscling his way inside for an and-one layup and the Bears never trailed again.
Mount Airy point guard Greg Greene had to sit for a while with early foul trouble, but this didn’t prevent the Bears from getting up and down the floor, as Ryan Graham and Alex Hall each hit a 3-pointer and Donavon Greene had a breakaway dunk that forced Anderson to call for another time-out. Mount Airy led 18-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Helms tried to keep his team in the game by stealing the ball twice in the frontcourt and going in for an uncontested layup, but the Bears simply had too many weapons. Hall, Arrington and Graham all dialed long distance in the second quarter and the hosts were comfortably ahead by halftime, at 35-17.
The third quarter provided a few more for the highlight reel, as Hall threw an alley-oop dunk to Greg Greene two minutes into the second half to extend the lead past 20 points for the first time, at 41-20. Late in the quarter, senior Zach Hall, who may have been playing in his last home game for the team, made back-to-back threes from the same spot on the left wing.
The Bears’ lead peaked at 30 points, 55-25, after a six-footer by Hall with 7:07 remaining. Goins shuttled players in and out for the rest of the night and the game played out as a 24-point Mount Airy win.
Hall, who hit four 3-pointers in the game, led the Bears with 14 points. Graham added 13, Arrington 10, Greg Greene eight and Donavon Greene seven. The Vikings spent much of the game collapsing the middle on defense in an effort to stop Donavon Greene, and Mount Airy responded by hitting eight 3-pointers. Graham had three treys and Arrington one.
Helms led North Stokes with 12. Michael Smith had nine, and no other Viking tallied more than five.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.