Boys restore pride with win over Reagan

Published 9:49 am Thursday, February 16, 2017

After a remarkable rally fell short against Mt. Tabor, the Davie varsity boys restored some of its pride with an upset win over Reagan. Then in the final game in the gym that’s been Davie’s home for 56 years, the War Eagles found out the hard way that storybook endings don’t always materialize, as Parkland defeated Davie 73-56 in the regular-season finale.

When Davie hosted Tabor on Feb. 7, a huge comeback by the last-place War Eagles did not come to fruition in an 81-70 loss to the Spartans.

Second-place Tabor (19-5 overall), which handled Davie 74-55 on Jan. 12, dominated the first half. Tabor’s biggest lead was 36-17 with 4:55 left in the first half. Tabor hit eight 3-pointers on the way to a 47-31 halftime bulge. It was all but a lock to beat Davie for the ninth time in a row, but the War Eagles did not wilt. They startled everyone in the gym with a 24-7 run in the third.

Owen McCormack, a 6-7 tree with the unique ability to shoot accurately from long range, triggered the charge with back-to-back 3-pointers. Heath Slabach struck for nine points before McCormack connected again from deep. When Michael Walton nailed a triple, it was 56-56. Then Walton blocked a shot, gathered the ball and headed down the court, drawing a foul at the other end. His free throw capped the run and gave Davie a 57-56 lead. Dylan Shoffner’s basket forged a 59-59 tie at the end of the third.

“We challenged them at halftime to be the best defenders they possibly could be,” coach Mike Absher said. “Offensively we had to get back to making the extra pass. About every time we called something, we may not have gotten the bucket right off the look, but we got a bucket.”

Even though Tabor scored eight straight points to take a 67-59 lead, the War Eagles did not give up. They answered with a 12-2 run, ignited by Cory Heiner’s jump hook. When Heiner faked a backdoor pass, spun the opposite way and sank a jump hook while getting fouled, the eventual three-point play cut Davie’s deficit to 71-69.

“I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: I’d go anywhere with them,” Absher said. “They played their rear ends off. To come from (19) down to take the lead, it’s a special group. You hate it for them because they really deserve better than (10-11 overall).”

Free-throw woes cost the War Eagles a chance to pull off a massive upset. They went 12 of 25 from the line, including 2 of 9 in the fourth. With the score 73-69 with 65 seconds remaining, Davie missed two foul shots – and that was that.

“This came down to one thing: Our inability to make free throws,” Absher said. “When you miss the front end of a one-and-one, it’s like a turnover.”

Isaiah Wilkins burned Davie with 35 points and six 3-pointers. McCormack (18), Slabach (17) and Walton (15) paced Davie. McCormack hit four 3s as Davie outscored Tabor 30-27 from long range. Walton hit three and Slabach two.

“We brought Owen outside because we felt like he could drive against their big man,” Absher said.


One night later, the War Eagles were supposed to be psychologically and physically weary after pushing Tabor to the final minutes – but they didn’t get the memo.

Davie rose from the CPC basement and handed visiting Reagan an emphatic beating, 65-51. It avenged an 89-77 loss at Reagan on Dec. 16.

“After the physical and emotional energy we spent last night, to come out and play the way we played, hats off to our guys,” Absher said. “We talk about toughness all the time. We displayed it tonight.”

Shoffner ambushed Reagan with 14 first-half points, almost singlehandedly providing a 27-16 halftime lead. Although Shoffner didn’t scratch in the second half, partly due to foul trouble, the damage had been done.

“Dylan got us going,” Absher said. “You don’t know who it’s going to be. There are different guys that it can be, but Dylan’s start was huge.”

In the third, Heiner got a steal and found Slabach, who gave it right back to Heiner for a layup. The beautiful two-man game provided a 29-16 margin. McCormack scored five points during a 7-2 spurt. Reagan made one push, an 8-0 run that shaved the margin to 36-28 and forced Absher to call timeout.

Davie’s heart and pride would not let Reagan get any closer. Slabach and McCormack popped 3s. Heiner grabbed two offensive rebounds on one possession, getting rewarded with a trip to the line. He hit both for a 44-29 advantage.

“That was a well-deserved win against a good team,” he said. “I’m really, really proud of our guys.”

Davie was able to flip the script because it went 12 for 12 from the foul line and it permitted just two 3s from the Raiders, who went 11 for 17 from downtown in the first meeting. Both Reagan triples came in the fourth quarter when the outcome was decided.

Slabach went 8 for 8 from the line, matching a season high with 25 points and adding eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. It was the senior’s fourth 20-point outing of the season.

“I looked at him in the locker room and smiled because it’s really starting to come together for him,” Absher said. “I’m happy for him because he’s going to be gone before long and I’m glad he’s finishing with a good run.”

Shoffner had 14 points. McCormack had 12 points and 11 boards. Heiner had four points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Will Shepherd came off the bench for six points and four assists. Slabach, McCormack and Shoffner combined to hit seven 3s as Davie enjoyed its second CPC victory in 11 tries.


The War Eagles have pushed everyone in the CPC to the final minutes at least once, but they had nothing left in the tank at crunch time against visiting Parkland in the regular-season finale on Feb. 10. The Mustangs (13-10, 6-6) spoiled a memorable night in a packed gym, 73-56.

In the third quarter, Slabach put up 10 points as Davie trimmed a 37-30 halftime deficit to 54-50. Parkland edged Davie 66-65 on Jan. 13, and another tight finish seemed likely.

Parkland, however, pulled away with a 19-6 flurry in the fourth. Heiner’s two free throws pulled Davie within 56-52 with plenty of time remaining. But parkland answered with a 3-pointer. When the Mustangs regained possession, they spread the floor, milked the clock, and then they sapped Davie’s spirit with a jumper that made it 61-52.

Parkland converted 12 of 14 foul shots in the fourth, Heiner had Davie’s only field goal, and fans who came out for the final game in a gym that opened in 1961-62 went home disappointed. (A new school will open on Farmington Road in August.)

Slabach did his part with 20 points. It was his ninth 20-point game in two years. Heiner had 13 points and eight rebounds. McCormack and Shoffner had nine points each. Walton had three points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Davie hit 11 3-pointers to Parkland’s eight, but Davie hurt itself at the line (12 of 21). Slabach went 4 for 4, but everyone else went 8 for 17.

Davie (11-12 overall) and North Davidson tied for last in the seven-team league. West Forsyth captured the regular-season crown at 11-1. Tabor went 10-2, Reagan and Parkland went 6-6, Reynolds went 5-7, and North and Davie went 2-10.

Tabor 81, Davie 70 – Owen McCormack 18, Heath Slabach 17, Michael Walton 15, Cory Heiner 8, Dylan Shoffner 8, Will Shepherd 3, Jacob Hendrix 1.

Davie 65, Reagan 51 – Heath Slabach 25, Dylan Shoffner 14, Owen McCormack 12, Will Shepherd 6, Cory Heiner 4, Michael Walton 4.

Parkland 73, Davie 56 – Heath Slabach 20, Cory Heiner 13, Owen McCormack 9, Dylan Shoffner 9, Michael Walton 3, Jacob Hendrix 2.