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Davie Lets Big Lead Slip Away

By Brian Pitts
Davie Enterprise Record

MINT HILL – With the Davie boys basketball team leading by 11 in the fourth quarter, it looked as if the War Eagles were going to advance in the sectional semifinals and go on to face rival Mt. Tabor for the fourth time.
Then, all of a sudden, everything went wrong.  The high-flying War Eagles crashed and burned, getting outscored 32-17 in the fourth quarter and losing 74-66 last week at Independence.
The third-seeded Patriots, who swept the titles in the Southwestern Conference, improved to 24-5 with their 10th consecutive win. They reached this game by squeaking past Reynolds in the first round, 74-73. Sixth-seeded Davie closed shop at 21-6.
“It’s tough anytime you’ve got to take your stuff up for the last time,” Davie coach Mike Absher said. “It’s hard. The two guys I feel the worst for are Chris Campbell and Kurtis Banner – our two seniors – because they won’t get a chance to ever do it again. Everybody else in this locker room will have a chance to compete at this level again. But it doesn’t make you feel any better right now.”
Thanks to terrific perimeter shooting, the War Eagles staggered Independence in the first quarter. They converted nine of 13 shots, including three of five 3-pointers, to surge to a 21-15 lead. When Taylor Hatfield unleashed a long outlet to Cody Martin for a layup and a 13-7 lead, Indy coach Preston Davis called timeout less than four minutes in. Caleb Martin and Austin Hatfield popped 3s to extend the margin to 19-11. Taylor called for the “Texas” play, then hit Caleb with a backdoor pass. Caleb dunked to make it 21-13.
Davie carried a 32-29 lead into halftime.
“You’ve got to give Davie credit,” Davis said. “I mean they’ve got a good team. They’re well coached and they’ve got good players.”
“Having to come on the road and play in that environment, our guys handled that very well,” Absher said. “For three-plus quarters, we played some of our best basketball.”
In the third, Davie continued to look poised, confident and unflappable. An 11-0 burst had the visiting fans going wild. Taylor’s triple ignited the run. After Cody Martin scored off a rebound, Austin pulled up on the break and nailed a 19-footer. Caleb Martin got a steal and threw an alley-oop to Cody. When Kenyon Tatum hit two free throws, Davie’s lead was 43-31.  
When Cody scored the first four points in the fourth, Davie’s advantage was 53-42 with 6:30 to play. Davie was in complete control, Indy hadn’t led since the score was 3-2, and Davie fans were giddy.
“We thought if we could get three or four stops in a row, we could put them away,” Absher said. “Even on the road, we played good enough to win until coming down the stretch.”
The final six minutes were painful for Davie to watch. Indy point guard Tayon Gleaves became a man on a mission and changed everything.
Indy reeled off a 12-0 run as Gleaves hit two 3-pointers in a span of 50 seconds. Shooting guard Marcus Graves also took over, hitting a triple as Indy buried three 3s in less than two minutes. Graves’ steal and layup gave Indy a 54-53 lead – its first lead since 3-2. Indy scored 11 unanswered points in two minutes, 14 seconds …