Boys rally late to beat East Forsyth

Published 11:06 am Thursday, January 31, 2019

Davie’s varsity boys played subpar basketball for 27 minutes. Down nine in the fourth quarter, it looked as if Davie was going to lose to East Forsyth for the third time in a calender year.

But the War Eagles showed perseverance, displayed cold-eyed execution down the stretch and pulled out a 55-51 win in dramatic fashion over the visiting Eagles on Jan. 25.

“That’s not exactly how we drew it up,” coach Mike Absher said. “For our guys to have the toughness, the composure and the poise to come back from that deficit speaks highly of them.”

The Eagles – who swept Davie last year to capture the Central Piedmont Conference outright and deny Davie a share of the regular-season title, including a 54-53 win at Davie in the regular-season finale – slipped to 11-5 and 2-2. First-place Davie (16-1, 4-0) added to its hottest start in 19 years.

“It means a lot for us to come back and battle adversity,” senior Jacob Hendrix said. “We haven’t had to face this much all year, and it’s great to show toughness like that.”

The Eagles threw a scare into Davie for three-plus quarters. They used a 14-2 run to grab a 16-8 lead. Their 8-1 run created a 42-31 gap. When they took a 49-40 lead with 6:38 left in the game, Davie was shooting 4 for 20 from 3-point range and 2-5 from the free-throw line.

From that point on, Davie drilled 5 of 8 shots and nailed its only 3-point attempt.

“When it was 49-40, I thought we had a good run in us,” Absher said. “Even then I felt: ‘Was that going to be enough to win the game?’ I didn’t know, but I did feel like we would at least get back into it.

“We told our guys: ‘Every possession get a piece of the paint.’ We felt like we needed to try to get better shots inside because we weren’t making (3s).”

A Michael Walton drive that made it 49-42 with 5:59 remaining started Davie’s final push. Then the burst was keyed by Troy Griggs, who converted two free throws before snatching an offensive rebound and finishing a contested layup with the left hand to make it 49-46. Brooks Johnson secured a loose ball to set up Griggs’ finish.

“We came out slow,” senior Owen McCormack said. “We finally woke up. We started making some shots. They had their way all night and we started chipping away, chipping away. When it got (close), they started to tighten up, and we took it from there.”

McCormack was a beast with 20 points, six rebounds and four blocks. He hit 7 of 13 shots and three 3s for his third 20-point outing of the season. Griggs came through with 14 points, four assists, three boards and two steals, all his rebounds coming at crunch time.

But Davie absolutely, positively does not win without Hendrix. When it was 49-46 East, the senior lefty had missed 4 of 6 field goals and 3 of 4 3s. The unflappable Hendrix made 3 of 4 shots when it mattered most, including a game-tying corner 3 off an inbounds pass from Johnson.

After Griggs snagged a defensive rebound and McCormack took a charge, Griggs found Hendrix inside. He scored for a 51-49 lead at 2:00.

Griggs rebounded an East air ball. Hendrix attacked, hitting a finger roll for a 53-49 lead at :55. East misfired from long range and Hendrix, who finished with 12 points and two blocks, controlled the rebound.

“Jacob has a quiet confidence about him,” Absher said. “A lot of people don’t see it. He had his own little 5-0 run. That was awesome. We talk about this a lot: If you miss, hey, make the next one. We do try to coach a mentality there.”

Davie left some suspense by missing two free throws at :20. East scored on a third shot attempt to make it 53-51 with 7.3 seconds left. But McCormack closed out the thrilling finish with two free throws at :06.

It was far from pretty, but the sensational late turnaround – an absolute tear of 15-2 – capped an emotional evening that saw four individuals and one team inducted in the Davie Hall of Fame.

“If I miss a shot, I’m going to go right back in there expecting that one to go in,” Hendrix said. “That’s how I’ve always been taught.”

“We knew if we wanted to win this game, we had to hustle more than them,” Griggs said. “In the fourth quarter, we had to hit shots and we did. It was tough, but did what we had to do.”

The War Eagles can’t afford to pat themselves on the back too long. They held serve at home, which is great. But there aren’t any breaks in this conference slate. They also started 4-0 in the CPC last year, which marked the finest league start in 47 years, but things did not pan out like they wanted, finishing 7-3 and tying for second.

“Davie did what they had to do to win,” East coach Mike Muse told the Winston-Salem Journal. “Credit to them. I hate it for my guys because that’s the best we’ve played in a while.

“We’ve got a long season to go. In this conference, on any night anybody can beat anybody.”

Notes: Davie – getting seven points and six assists from Walton and two points and two assists from Johnson, shot 70 percent on 2-pointers (17-24) and 23 percent on 3s (5-21). … Davie is alone in first, one game ahead of Reynolds (3-1). Glenn and East are tied for third at 2-2. Davie has played everyone in the CPC except Reagan, which lost 58-50 to East. … Two nights earlier, Davie throttled visiting North Iredell, 71-34, in a nonconference game. Walton had 15 points, Johnson 12, Noah Bohannon nine, Griggs eight, Zach Smith six, Hendrix five, Ronald Wilson four, Justice Redmon four, McCormack four and Latham Chamberlain four.