KERNERSVILLE — Mount Airy’s boys’ basketball team appeared to have a road win over Bishop McGuinness well in hand as the teams moved to the fourth quarter of their Northwest 1A Conference game on Friday night.
The Villains had other ideas, though, and the Granite Bears were essentially saved by the bell in hanging on to a 72-69 victory.
Mount Airy (16-5, 8-2 NW1A) led by 23 points going into the final eight minutes of the game, but allowed the Villains to score a staggering 36 fourth-quarter points — three more than they had scored in the entire first three periods — and it took two free throws from Ryan Graham and one from Will Sparks in the last 21 seconds of of play for the Bears to survive.
The Bears appeared to have the game well in hand when they went on a 14-2 run in the third quarter, turning a 36-29 game into a 50-31 laugher. Jackson Smith, Caleb Arrington and Sparks all played key roles in the big run, which saw the Villains (12-9, 5-5) make numerous poor decisions offensively and even get whistled for a technical foul.
Mount Airy led 56-33 with a quarter to play and appeared to be on its way to a blowout win, but Bishop mounted a furious rally down the stretch.
The Villains outscored the Bears 14-6 in the first four and a half minutes of the final frame, and trailed 62-47 with the ball when Smith drew a charge with 3:30 remaining, but this only slowed down the home team’s momentum. Over the next two minutes, Bishop outscored Mount Airy 10-5, and with 78 seconds left in the game, the score was 67-57. Bears coach Levi Goins called timeout up seven with 37 seconds to go, and the Bears barely held on.
Graham hit two free throws with 21 seconds left to give his team a 71-64 lead. Bishop’s Ben Babcock answered with a quick three that made it 71-67, but time was running out. With 7.4 seconds left on the clock, Sparks made one of two, and a Bishop basket just before the buzzer was not enough, as time expired before Mount Airy had to inbound the ball.
Sparks had 21 points for the Bears, who spent most of the first half in deep foul trouble. Both Greenes, Donavon and Gregory, committed three personal fouls in the first half, as did Arrington. Mount Airy jumped out to an 8-0 lead right out of the gate, but couldn’t pull away and led just 32-22 at intermission.
The Bears will host conference rival East Surry on Tuesday night.