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Bears start slow, but come up huge

Bishop McGuinness made two big runs at Mount Airy on Friday night. The first time, head coach Bryan Hayes had to wake his team up. The second time, the Granite Bears were wide awake and responded with a decisive push to victory.

The Bears trailed by as many as 13 points in the first quarter of their game against the defending 1A state champions, and were playing such poor defense that Hayes chewed his team out for their flat performance during a time-out. Mount Airy then went on a 21-4 run and took the lead, and were up by as many as 15 in the second half before Bishop got within a point with 4:15 left in the game. A 10-0 run from that point clinched the win, as the Bears cruised to a 66-54 victory.

“I called that time-out and 100 percent challenged them. I felt like you could have heard a pin drop in that gymnasium,” said Hayes. “After I challenged them, they responded, and that is what I am most proud of them. We got off to a very slow start and we were lethargic defensively.

Mount Airy (11-6, 3-1 Northwest 1A Conference) bounced back from two straight setbacks, having lost road games to Winston-Salem Prep and 2A power North Davidson earlier in the week. The Villains are hardly an easy team to beat, either, but it was almost a must-win game for the Bears, with tough road games against East Surry and North Stokes coming up next week.

However, it was the Villains (12-6, 2-2) that played with the sense of urgency early on. Bishop lost several key performers from last year’s champions, but they’re still a quality team and still have the program’s trademark deadly outside shooting. In the first quarter, not only was that working, but the Bears were also losing their men underneath. Bishop’s Nathan Fuller opened the game with a three-ball, and after back-to-back treys by Noah Allred later in the quarter, the Villains led 18-5. Hayes not only got on his team during a time-out, but also admonished his players for poor defense on the court and another one for inappropriate language.

In the last 95 seconds of the quarter, the Bears woke up, starting with Caden Fitzgibbons driving the ball to the basket. In the final minute of the period, both Grant Routh and Peyton Harmon got inside and drew fouls, going 4-for-4 at the line, and Jordan Newsome stole the ball near halfcourt and took it in for a basket. When the teams headed to the second quarter, the Bears were within five at 18-13.

Jaedon Hill came off the bench to open the second quarter and scored six quick points, tying the game at 20. With 2:36 left before the half, Routh got inside and scored to give Mount Airy its first lead, at 24-22, and then he stole Bishop’s inbounds pass and scored again, forcing Villain head coach Scott Thompson to call time-out. It didn’t help, and when Dre Dobson hit a 3-pointer in the final minute of the half, the Bears led 31-26 at the half.

Mount Airy continued to take the fight to Bishop as the third quarter got under way. The Bears had figured out that the Villains were a bit shaky at taking care of the ball, and used this knowledge to make several steals and deflections. Newsome hit a 3-pointer, and both Fitzgibbons and Brooks Sizemore had steals that led to easy layups at the other end. Mount Airy took its biggest lead at 41-26 on such a play from Sizemore with 5:44 left in the third.

“Who we are, is defense,” Hayes said. “We have to play well defensively in order to have a chance to compete and win. They responded well. We got into the passing lanes, we got some tip-outs, and we got some steals.”

Then the Villains got hot, and it was the Bears’ turn to weather a storm. Bishop bombed in four 3-pointers before the quarter was over, two from senior Jake Ledbetter, one from Thomas Markum and one from Dawson McAlhany, and cut the deficit to 48-42 going to the fourth quarter.

The Villains kept the heat on as the final period got under way. After Routh opened the quarter with a three, Bishop scored eight straight points, and when Nathan Fuller took the ball to the rim and scored with 4:15 to play, the scoreboard read 51-50 in favor of the Bears. The visitors were on a 24-10 run of their own.

This time, Hayes didn’t call any time-outs. His team answered the bell.

Following Fuller’s basket, Mount Airy got inside, missed a shot, but Fitzgibbons boxed out and got the putback. At the 3:40 mark, Newsome stole the ball and took it 65 feet the other way for a layup. Less than 20 seconds later, Zeb Stroup showed he could do it too, at which point the “Granite Squad” student section made a point of telling the Villains that Stroup was just a sophomore. Over the next minute and a half, the Bears continued to hound Bishop into turnovers and ill-advised shots, while Fitzgibbons had another putback and Peyton Harmon finished off a fastbreak for a 61-50 lead with 1:50 to play. The clincher came with 58 seconds remaining, when Fitzgibbons intercepted a Bishop inbounds pass and scored for a 65-52 lead. In a game of runs, Mount Airy’s 14-2 knockout punch secured the win.

“Caden Fitzgibbons was a bad man tonight,” said Hayes. “It was a game of runs. We had a good run to start the third quarter, and then they had a good run to finish the quarter. But our guys stayed together. We faced a lot of adversity earlier this week and we faced it again tonight. The difference is that tonight, we stuck together, we shared the rock, and we did it as a team.”

Fitzgibbons led the Bears with 17 points. Newsome added 12, Routh 11 and Hill 10. Markum and Allred led the Villains with 13 each.

Mount Airy travels to East Surry on Tuesday night.

In the JV boys’ game, the Bears trailed in the final minute of the game, but after foiling the Villains’ efforts at running out the clock by stealing the ball, Mount Airy went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line in the final 31 seconds and claimed a 37-32 win.

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Caden Fitzgibbons led the Bears with 17 points in their victory over defending 1A state champion Bishop McGuinness on Friday night.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/web1_850_2426.jpgCaden Fitzgibbons led the Bears with 17 points in their victory over defending 1A state champion Bishop McGuinness on Friday night. Jason Overby | Special to the News

The Bears’ Zeb Stroup takes the ball to the basket for two points during his team’s win over Bishop.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/web1_850_2442.jpgThe Bears’ Zeb Stroup takes the ball to the basket for two points during his team’s win over Bishop. Jason Overby | Special to the News

Jordan Newsome heads for the basket before the Bishop defense could get back during Mount Airy’s Northwest 1A Conference win Friday night.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/web1_850_2288.jpgJordan Newsome heads for the basket before the Bishop defense could get back during Mount Airy’s Northwest 1A Conference win Friday night. Jason Overby | Special to the News

Peyton Harmon goes up for two of his seven points in the Bears’ win over Bishop.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/web1_850_2234.jpgPeyton Harmon goes up for two of his seven points in the Bears’ win over Bishop. Jason Overby | Special to the News
10-0 fourth-quarter run sends Villains packing

By John Cate

jcate@mtairynews.com

Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.

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Source: https://www.mtairynews.com

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