Special delivery: McCormack’s 3 wins it

Published 9:28 am Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Davie varsity boys basketball team’s season has become something historic. The War Eagles of Mike Absher are 18-1 for the first time since 1969. They are 6-0 in the league for the first time since 1970.

Images of the first regular-season championship since ‘70 are swirling in their heads. Thanks to last week’s wins over Reagan and Reynolds, frontrunner Davie has a two-game lead with four games to play. What could possibly go wrong? Well, this is high school sports, where anything can happen. Yes, Davie is in the catbird seat. But there is still chicken on the bone. Furthermore, Davie needed two heart-pounding rallies the past two Fridays to remain alone in first.

“This does not mean we win the CPC,” senior and Friday hero Owen McCormack said. “It’s a great conference.”

“Obviously we’ve put ourselves in a good position,” Absher said. “I know it’s a cliche, but we’ve got to keep playing. We’ve got to be ready to play (Feb. 5 against West Forsyth). We’ve been trying to take them one at a time. We’ve got to stay focussed and keep trying to get better.”


At halftime at Reagan on Jan. 31, things were too close for comfort. Davie was ahead – barely – 26-24. Davie was missing starter Brooks Johnson, who was averaging 8.6 points but had to sit out with the flu. Davie was also missing one of the first guys off the bench, Zach Smith (hip flexor).

And the Raiders are hardly a gimme despite their record (7-10, 0-5 CPC). They only lost by eight to East Forsyth, which led Davie 49-40 in the fourth before the War Eagles stormed back for a 55-51 win.

The War Eagles prevailed in the trap game, 61-52. (Reagan was  sandwiched between East and Reynolds.) During an 18-point third quarter, Justice Redmon (six points), Jacob Hendrix (five) and McCormack (four) teamed up to provide the knockout blow. The third ended with Davie up 44-46, and the lead swelled as big as 13.

“We did a great job right off the bat in the third,” Absher said. “We needed to take some momentum and we did.”

McCormack had 17 points with three 3-pointers. Michael Walton had 15, Hendrix 12, Redmon 10, Troy Griggs five and James Reid two.

With two guys sidelined, Davie got a much-needed boost from Redmon, who did the same thing when he scored eight in a CPC win over Glenn. He was averaging 1.8 before he erupted for 10 at Reagan.

“Justice played really well defensively,” Absher said. “He was also aggressive on offense, which I was glad to see. He played really well.”


One week after the stirring comeback over East, Davie one-upped that rally by erasing a 12-point deficit to visiting Reynolds, which was trying to force a tie for first.

The showdown produced overwhelming excitement before the largest crowd to see a game in the two-year-old gym. McCormack buried a go-ahead 3 with seven seconds left as Davie survived 61-59 on Feb. 1.

The Demons (13-5, 4-2) had won five straight since losing 79-67 at home to Davie, including a 79-49 belting of East.

“It was amazing,” Griggs said. “Everyone was storming the court. It’s the best thing that’s happened in this school.”

“Insane atmosphere,” McCormack said. “We had a huge crowd from both sides. Huge student section. It was a crazy atmosphere.”

The Demons controlled the game for three quarters. As Davie came out cold, Reynolds led 23-15 and 39-31 after the first two quarters. In the third, they opened their largest lead at 43-31.

“We came out not ready to play,” McCormack said.

Down 54-43 late in the third, Davie didn’t flinch. A 17-5 run in the fourth felt remarkably similar to the East game. The momentum began to swing when Hendrix scored on a putback; Griggs grabbed a loose ball and went coast to coast for two; and Walton hit a free throw after his offensive rebound, and then he controlled a defensive board with Reynolds’ lead down to 54-49.

“We picked up our intensity and went on another run,” McCormack said.

“It’s amazing the confidence I have in these guys,” Absher said. “I felt like there would be a good run in us before the end.”

Hendrix and Griggs came up big – again – in the spurt, with Hendrix nailing an 18-footer to make it 54-51. After Griggs stole a pass, McCormack finished an impossible putback to cut it to 54-53. Then Hendrix banged a 3, Walton rebounded a missed 3 by Reynolds and Griggs gave Davie its first lead of the night, driving the baseline and muscling in a layup for a 58-57 lead.

Griggs grabbed a defensive rebound, but moments later a tie-up situation gave Reynolds possession at 1:51. Reynolds misfired, McCormack got the board and another tie-up resulted at 1:35 – but this time the possession arrow was pointing to Davie.

After Davie milked several seconds off the clock, Reynolds fouled Griggs at :53. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Reynolds’ Mysta Goodloe missed the front end at :34 and Walton rebounded.

The drama kept building. Griggs missed the front end at :30 and a blocking foul was called on McCormack at :19. This time Goodloe made both free throws to give Reynolds a 59-58 lead at :33.

That set the stage for an epic game-winner.

Griggs brought the ball across halfcourt at :14. At the top of the key, the point guard looked for a backdoor cut that wasn’t available. He didn’t panic. He calmly pitched it back to McCormack, sealed the defender and watched the 6-9 Presbyterian commitment launch from deep. McCormack delivered the triple that made it 61-59 at :07.

“That’s just a little variation of the backcut that we run,” Absher said. “To be honest, those guys have done it on their own a little bit.”

It wasn’t over. Reynolds’ Devin Ingram got a clean look from 3-point territory on the left wing. It missed and the horn sounded, igniting a court-storming celebration from the Davie Crazies.

“Everything was going well in the fourth and I thought (Ingram) was going to end it all for us,” McCormack said.

McCormack finished with 19 points and five 3s. Walton had 15 points, Hendrix 13, Griggs 11 and Johnson three. Hendrix saved 11 of his points for the second half.

McCormack’s shot will be remembered by fans for a long time, but a stellar defensive effort was the deciding factor. Davie had to lock down on defense in the fourth or lose in front of the biggest crowd yet in the new gym. Reynolds banged six 3s in the first half, but none in the second.

“Defense is what really turned it around for us,” Absher said.

The Demons were distraught as they headed to the locker room. “It’s a tough loss,” Reynolds coach Billy Martin told the Winston-Salem Journal. “The kids played well for most of the game. Down the stretch we had some mental breakdowns. We started rushing shots. They did what they had to do to win. The kid stepped up and hit a big shot.

“I knew they were going to do something with the big boy because he’s a shooter. We went under (the screen) instead of fighting over the top, and that hurt us.”

Instead of sulking about the missed free throws, Griggs set up  McCormack’s massive shot.

“Troy played wonderful all night,” McCormack said. “He got frustrated about the free throws, but with 19 seconds left I told him: ‘Chill out. We’re going to get our shot. We need you right now.’ He ran the play perfectly, pinned the guy and gave me a wide-open shot.”

“We had to run the play right and get Owen open for the shot,” Griggs said. “We knew the backdoor wouldn’t be there. We always have Owen come up, do the little pitch back and I seal out. And it worked perfectly.”


With Davie firmly atop the CPC at 6-0, Reynolds is 4-2 and Glenn 3-3. This really is amazing stuff. Davie is 18-1 for the first time since ‘69, when Bob Henry’s team included James “Jingles” Ijames, Ronnie Shoaf, Steve Zimmerman, Hubert West, Craig Ward, Tony Seaford, Doug Chappell, Eddie Jones, Rodgers Peoples, Steve Beck, R.C. Athey and Gary Hendricks.

“People ask me all the time about this team,” Absher said. “It’s not any more complicated than we have a bunch of guys who put the team first and play hard. Even when things aren’t going our way, they play hard.”

McCormack is averaging 14.9 points, followed by Walton (12.5), Hendrix (11.7), Griggs (9) and Johnson (8.3).