Slabach scores 39 with 10 threes

Published 9:49 am Thursday, February 11, 2016

Heath Slabach of Davie’s varsity boys basketball team did his best Stephen Curry impersonation against visiting North Davidson on Feb. 1. The junior wing turned in a career game for just about anyone’s career, scoring 39 points and hitting 10 3-pointers to lead an 86-63 blowout.

Everyone left the Davie gym marveling at Slabach, who went 10 for 13 from long range.

“Heath Slabach or Klay Thompson?” senior Nic Starnes tweeted. “I can’t tell the difference.”

“He burned the nets down,” Davie football coach Devore Holman said. “They called the Mocksville Fire Department.”

When the teams met on Jan. 5, Davie had to overcome a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to eke out an 80-78 decision. Thanks to Slabach, the rematch was a far cry from the first meeting. While North dropped to 4-16 overall and 0-8 in the Central Piedmont Conference, Davie improved to 12-7, 4-4.

The War Eagles trailed 12-5 when Slabach began to catch fire. Slabach sandwiched two 3s around two from Michael Walton as Davie drained triples on four straight possessions to charge to a 17-12 lead. North rallied for a 47-45 lead with 1:30 remaining in the third. Who else but Slabach responded with a go-ahead 3. Davie never trailed again.

“At that point, the basket was looking so big,” Slabach said. “I kept shooting and I kept thinking: ‘This is probably going to be the last one I hit.’ But I kept hitting them. The main thing is, I was keeping my legs under me and I kept shooting good shots. It’s not like I was trying to force it.”

At the end of the third, Cory Heiner got a steal and kicked it ahead to Slabach, to drove for an and-one that bumped Davie’s lead to 53-47.

In the fourth, Cooper Wall threw down not one, but two fastbreak dunks in a span of 10 seconds as the margin grew to 73-55.

Slabach scored 21 points in the first half and 18 in the second. He hit five 3s in each half. He went 5 of 5 from the free-throw line. Wall and Nic Starnes had 10 each. Walton and Jordan McDaniel had eight each and Heiner seven.

Davie drained 14 3s altogether, including two each by Walton and Wall.

Slabach’s final shot was a long miss with 2:40 to go. He left the court to a standing ovation.

“I’ve been feeling confident and Nic and Cooper – those guys running the one – did a great job of finding me,” Slabach said. “They knew I was feeling it.”

Everyone knew they had seen something special. Slabach and Sean Stevens are the only War Eagles to hit 10 3s in a game. Stevens had games with 10, 11 and 12 3-pointers in 2001-02. The 12 was a state record at the time; the record is currently 14. Slabach was six points from the school’s single-game record; Dwayne Grant had 45 in 1976-77.

“He was making most of those when the outcome was still on the line,” coach Mike Absher said. “When you’re making them in that kind of environment, that makes it even better.

“Somebody asked him how many points he scored. He said: ‘We won the game.’ That sums it up. What I’m most proud of is our guys kept feeding the beast or feeding the fire or whatever you want to call it. We ran two set plays for him. Other than that, it was our guys playing basketball and figuring out he’s the guy with the hot hand.”

Slabach, who averaged 4.7 points as a varsity freshman and 5.4 as a sophomore, has made a substantial leap. After reaching double figures seven times the past two years, he has hit double figures 15 times as a junior to become the No. 1 scorer at 13.8. Think about that jump.

“He never complains,” Absher said. “He never puts his head down. He’s going to work hard every day. Not just at shooting the ball, he’s going to do his job every day. That just shows you how the work can pay off. Now he’s burying shots.”

Davie Loses By 2

Davie’s 71-69 loss at Reagan on Feb. 3 cut to the bone. Reagan banked in a prayer of a shot at the buzzer to pull itself into a fourth-place tie with the War Eagles.

It was the first nailbiter to get away from Davie (12-8, 4-5 CPC), which was 4-0 in games decided by two points or less.

After a 30-30 first half, Davie surged in front 39-32 in the third. Reagan (9-11, 4-5) countered with a 10-0 run. Slabach was clutch, taking a pass from McDaniel and hitting a 3 to make it 69-69 with 13.4 seconds to go. It was his second game-tying 3 of the fourth. But Reagan, which lost to Davie 66-65 on Dec. 15 on a backdoor pass from Starnes to McDaniel, scored as the clock hit zeroes.

“We couldn’t have defended it any better,” Absher said of the last possession. “They were stifled. They had nowhere to go. They shoot a 16-footer from around the free-throw line and it banks in at the buzzer.”

At the end of the third, Reagan banked in a 3-pointer “from nowhere,” he said. “They had five points on freak shots.”

Slabach hit four 3s to score 16 points. Wall (14), Heiner (12), Starnes (11) and McDaniel (11) were also in double figures. Davie converted 12 of 16 free throws and hit seven 3s.

Davie Loses In OT

Despite playing a third game in four days, and despite losing in stinging fashion the night before, the War Eagles gave Reynolds all they could handle here Feb. 4. Slabach fouled out with three minutes left in regulation, McDaniel fouled out in OT and the Demons emerged with a 70-63 decision.

“To go to Reagan and get beat at the buzzer and then to take Reynolds to overtime when they’re as good as anybody in the league … yeah, it’s tough to lose, but we did way too many good things tonight,” Absher said. “I’m so proud of their effort. I’m so proud of them physically and mentally. I mean that’s a tough turnaround. Boy, they came ready to play.”

While Davie slipped to 12-9 and 4-6, the Demons improved to 18-3, 7-2.

Every time Reynolds appeared ready to gain separation, the War Eagles responded with a big shot. Wall’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to 35-33. Gabe Gonnella hit two free throws to cut it to 43-41. When Starnes hit a pair of foul shots, the deficit was 52-50 with 4:05 to play. Wall came up with a steal with Davie behind by four, then found Starnes, who did all he could to will Davie to upset victory. Starnes took Wall’s pass and hit a 3 to pull his team within 54-53 with 2:20 left. With 1:25 left, Starnes passed to McDaniel, who whipped it inside to L.P. Mua, who scored to make it 56-55 in Reynolds’ favor.

“You’re thinking it could go from six to 12 really quick,” Absher said. “My point to them was: Try to avoid those big runs, just keep it close and then we’ve got a chance. We answered every one of them. We got stops when we needed them and we got buckets when we needed them.”

Reynolds missed two free throws, but Davie missed a 12-footer. When Reynolds hit a free throw with 35 seconds left, it was 57-55 Demons.

That set up a game-saving play by Starnes, who attacked the paint and drew a foul as his shot rolled off the rim with 18 seconds left. He hit two pressure-packed free throws to tie it at 57.

“When it’s all said and done, you’ll say there were a bunch of different people who carried us on different nights,” Absher said. “It speaks to their unselfishness. They figure out the best way to do it. Starnes has a good basketball IQ. He was tough in there physically at finishing.”

Reynolds threw it away with 2.5 seconds left and the teams went to OT. Davie was completely out of gas in the extra session, and as a result it suffered back-to-back losses for just the second time all year.

After going scoreless in the first half, Starnes stepped up to finish with 17 points. McDaniel had 15, Wall nine and Walton eight. Davie went 13 of 15 at the foul line, compared to Reynolds’ 27 of 45. Davie made up for that by outscoring Reynolds 30-9 from beyond the arc. McDaniel hit three triples and Walton and Wall had two each.

Notes: Davie lost to Reynolds by 17 on Dec. 11. … This was the first OT game in three years. Davie lost 81-78 at Reagan in 2012-13. … The top three teams in the CPC are guaranteed playoff berths, and the fourth could receive a wild card. Tabor is 10-1. West Forsyth and Reynolds are 8-2. Reagan and Davie are tied at 4-6. … The top scoring averages: Slabach 13.8, McDaniel 13.1, Wall and Starnes 11.2, Heiner 7.8 and Walton 5.

Davie 86, N. Davidson 63 – Heath Slabach 39, Cooper Wall 10, Nic Starnes 10, Michael Walton 8, Jordan McDaniel 8, Cory Heiner 7, Peyton Hampton 2, L.P. Mua 2.

Reagan 71, Davie 69 – Heath Slabach 16, Cooper Wall 14, Cory Heiner 12, Nic Starnes 11, Jordan McDaniel 11, L.P. Mua 4, Peyton Hampton 1.

Reynolds 70, Davie 63 (overtime) – Nic Starnes 17, Jordan McDaniel 15, Cooper Wall 9, Michael Walton 8, Peyton Hampton 5, L.P. Mua 4, Heath Slabach 3, Cory Heiner 2.