A heated rivalry turned into a night of celebration for the Mount Airy basketball team on Friday. The Granite Bears (14-1, 4-0) jumped on East Surry (9-6, 2-2) right from the opening whistle, and cruised to a 74-50 victory.
With the game well in hand, Granite Bear senior Clay Mounce drilled a three-pointer to give him 23 points on the evening and his team a 50-24 lead over the Cardinals with 3:46 remaining in the third quarter. Mount Airy coach Levi Goins called a timeout, and he informed an unaware Mounce that he had scored the 1,000th point of his career.
“I didn’t know how many I needed, but I knew I was close,” Mounce said. “I really wasn’t sure what the timeout was for, but I got to the bench and got some water and everybody started looking at me, so I kind of figured.”
Scoring points has come easy for Mounce over his three years on the Bears’ varsity roster, and on Friday night, he filled the box score with a game-high 29 points. He also was a menace on the boards for Mount Airy and dished out seven assists.
Mounce and the Granite Bears came out with a purpose and looked to push the tempo against East Surry. The Bears jumped out to an 8-2 lead early on, and went on a 14-0 run during the first and second periods to hold an early 26-8 advantage. They maintained this 18-point lead to halftime, as the scoreboard read 36-18 at intermission.
“I like the fast pace. It was a little surprising tonight though,” Goins said. “This is the third game this week for us, and I felt like after our late practice last night we had some fatigued legs… As long as we’re keeping it under control, I’m happy with the pace.”
Mount Airy was able to speed up the East Surry offense as well, forcing the Cardinals into eight turnovers in the first half. Goins attributed the Bears’ success on defense to Mounce’s ability to challenge shots at the three-point line. The Cardinals still made seven three-pointers on the evening, but they never found a rhythm from behind the arc.
One player who was dialed in from the outside was Mount Airy guard Caleb Arrington. He consistently was the benefactor of East Surry trying to limit Mounce’s damage inside the paint, and Arrington was the second-leading scorer for the Bears with 14 points.
Three different Cardinals did a majority of the damage on Friday. Kim Taylor led the way with 16 points while Tyler Smith chipped in 14 and Shawn Creed tallied nine.
East Surry will have to wait 11 days before an opportunity to get the sour taste of this loss out of its mouth. The Cardinals next game will be a home contest against Atkins on Jan. 19.
The Granite Bears are ranked No. 2 in the NCPreps.com 1A basketball poll, but they have their toughest challenge of the conference season next on the schedule. After a week of exams, Mount Airy will travel to Winston-Salem Prep on Jan. 18. The Phoenix (8-5, 4-0) is ranked eighth by the same site, and is the only other unbeaten squad in the Northwest Conference.
“I think this week we are mature enough not to get to crazy with a big game coming up and a week full of practice,” Goins said. “The guys are hungry, though, and we will be ready to go.”
Mount Airy 66, East Surry 37
The Lady Bears shrugged off a sluggish start on the offensive end by playing terrific defense and getting terrific shooting performances from Jo Snow and Ayano Shelton in a 66-37 win over East Surry.
The Lady Cardinals (8-8, 2-2) held an early lead at 7-2 within the first four minutes of action, and Mount Airy (14-2, 4-0) didn’t get its first field goal until there was just 1:43 remaining in the first quarter.
However, Mount Airy’s first basket was a three-pointer from Snow, and it served as a sign of things to come for the Lady Bears.
Snow went 6-11 from behind the arc and poured in 23 points for Mount Airy. Shelton only connected on three tries from long distance, but she effectively attacked the basket and registered a game-high 25 points and five assists for Mount Airy.
“It’s exciting, because we had 19 assists as a team,” Mount Airy coach Howard Mayo said. “I know a lot of that was passing to Jo and Ayano, but we were making good reads. When they’re wide open for their shots, we like our chances.’
The offense took some time to get going, but Mount Airy’s defense was engaged throughout the first half. The Lady Bears forced the Cards into 16 turnovers over the first two quarters. By comparison, Mount Airy only committed 14 total.
“I thought we did a very good job of forcing them into numerous turnovers,” Mayo said. “I thought we had them frustrated at times. We gave them several different looks tonight.”
East Surry had balance offensively, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the likes of Snow and Shelton. Sydney Marion led the way with nine points for the Lady Cardinals, and Maddi Pennington followed her with eight.
Like their companions on the boys squad, the Lady Bears will also take part in a battle of conference unbeatens on Jan. 18. Winston-Salem Prep is 11-2, 4-0 and is the top-ranked 1A team according to NCPreps.com. The Lady Bears are ranked fifth in that same poll.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16