Unbeaten boys hit barrage of threes

Published 9:23 am Thursday, December 14, 2017

If Davie’s shooters come out hot, you’re in trouble. If they come out cold, you could still be in trouble.

Jacob Hendrix of Davie’s varsity boys basketball team started 0 for 2 against visiting A.L. Brown on Dec. 6. Brooks Johnson also missed his first two shots. Michael Walton started 1 of 5.

Then they started hitting everything.

The War Eagles (4-0) hit a barrage of 3-pointers, controlled things from start to finish and remained unbeaten with a 76-62 victory.

“That was a good test for us because of the athleticism and physicality that they bring,” coach Mike Absher said after the 3-A Wonders fell to 2-2. “It’s only going to help us down the road.”

After starting slow, Hendrix dropped three straight 3s. He added a fastbreak layup for 11 first-quarter points. Three of his four baskets were assisted by Cooper Wall as Davie took a 14-11 lead.

Hendrix converted 7 of 12 field goals, including 5 of 7 3s, on his way to a varsity career high of 19 points. He added three blocked shots. Hendrix was a little-used reserve as a sophomore, averaging 2.3 points per game. His improved range is a testament to the work he did in the offseason.

“It’s not because he hasn’t worked at it,” Absher said. “There’s certain lineups where there’s five guys who can shoot the 3. That’s kind of what we’ve been trying to create.”

Johnson was a force off the bench for the second game in a row. After misfiring on his first two attempts, he drained 3 of his next 4 shots – all 3s and all assisted by Troy Griggs. He added an inside putback for an 11-point quarter of his own. The teams combined for 44 points in the second, with Davie carving out a 37-32 lead.

After scoring four points over the first two games, Johnson (11 points, four steals, four rebounds, two assists) put up 23 in the last two. He made 3 of 9 triples against Brown, and the promising sophomore was scrappy on the boards and on defense.

“He probably went out there with a ton of adrenaline (after breaking out against Alexander Central),” Absher said. “He missed a couple, but man he settled in. That speaks to his confidence. He knows he can play.”

After missing four of his first five shots, Walton made five of his next six and ended up with a stellar game. He scored a team-high 20 points by converting six of 11 field goals and five of six free throws.

“He can put it on the floor, and he made a big 3 that made (the margin) 15,” Absher said.

The third was a 19-19 shootout. Brown would threaten, but Davie would never buckle. When Brown used an 8-2 run to get within 45-40, Hendrix assisted a Walton 3. The biggest highlight was Johnson’s steal/pass to Wall, who dunked on the other end for a 52-44 lead.

Brown hung around until Davie delivered a crushing 19-4 blow in the fourth. Johnson rebounded and threw an outlet to Hendrix, who made a layup. Wall broke the press and hit Walton for a layup. After drawing a charge, Owen McCormack cut to the hoop and finished a feed from Wall. Johnson rebounded his own miss and the ball went to McCormack and then to Hendrix, who nailed a 3. Wall kicked it out to Walton, who made a 3. Walton drove through the lane for two. Wall capped the devastating run with a steal/layup that pushed the gap to 75-56.

“We have the ability to make shots in a hurry,” Absher said. “Offensively, everything we did pretty much clicked.”

Walton’s 20-point effort did not qualify as breaking news. It was his third such outing in four tries – the first time a War Eagle has achieved that since Peyton Sell went for 30, 23, 23 and 26 in consecutive games in 2013-14.

McCormack (12 points on 4-of-7 shooting and seven rebounds) and Wall (nine points on 3-of-5 shooting and nine assists) only tried 12 shots between them. Instead of forcing it, they did what leaders do. They let the game come to them and were content to play complementary roles. Wall was the catalyst of Davie’s 19-assist performance.

“Coop did a good job running the show,” Absher said. “He was key against the 2-2-1 press. He was attacking it, not panicking and making sure he got the ball to the right places. Coop has shown strong leadership. They show trust by making the extra pass. Our offensive IQ is really good because we look for people who are shooting the ball well.”

Davie was again exceptional from long range. After hitting 12 3s against Alexander Central, they went 13 of 23 from deep against Brown. Hendrix hit five triples, Johnson and Walton three each, and McCormack and Elijah Wood one apiece.

When the 3s are falling, Davie is a joy to watch. Absher, though, cautions that the 3s may not fall every night.

“We still hit stretches where we relied too much on the 3,” he said. “That sounds crazy when you’ve hit 25 in two games, but we’ve got to be able to do other things on offense. At the beginning of the second half, we got the ball to Owen on the post and he started the half with a three-point play. We have to be able to do that more often.”

Notes: Wood made both his shots to score five points. He also had what assistant coach Shane Nixon noted as one of the defensive plays of the game. “He got in the passing lane and forced a turnover,” Absher said. “That was really big in the middle of the third when we were up seven or eight.” … The unselfish Griggs did not attempt a shot. Instead, he dished out five assists. … Just like last year, Davie is 4-0. But it wants a much different ending this time around. Davie finished 11-13 and sixth in the conference in 2016-17. … Four War Eagles are averaging double-figure points, led by Walton’s 18. McCormack stands at 14.7, Hendrix 11.5 and Wall 10.5.