Unselfish boys win 4 straight

Published 9:46 am Friday, December 27, 2019

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Playing with one mind, one heartbeat and using hot-potato ball movement allowed the Davie boys basketball team to reel off four straight wins and a 6-1 start.

To say the War Eagles of Mike Absher are an unselfish unit would be an understatement. Sometimes they’re almost too unselfish. The backcourt tandem of Brooks Johnson and Za’Haree Maddox have set the tone for that type of cohesion.

“As coaches, we have caught ourselves saying: ‘Shoot the ball,’” Absher said. “We have maybe given up a good look and turned it over or tried to make something that wasn’t there. But, yeah, you’ll take unselfishness in a heartbeat. As much as we want to play fast, this team has some versatility to it as far as how we can play offensively.”

The War Eagles reached 6-1 by averaging a modest 55 points per game. Opponents only averaged 44 during that stretch. The home win on Dec. 16 was a microcosm of a series of low-scoring games: Davie 51, Alexander Central 34.

The War Eagles led Central (3-4) 24-17 at halftime. They delivered the knockout blow in the third quarter. James Reid scored on a putback. After Maddox hit two free throws, he finished inside on a dish from Justice Redmon. Reid head faked from the top of the key, took one dribble to the left and buried a 3-pointer. Avery Taylor found Johnson inside for two. Then Johnson found Reid in transition, and he swished another triple to cap a 14-5 run that provided a comfortable 38-22 lead.

“They’re one of the hardest teams to play against,” Absher said. “That is the truest matchup zone you’ll see in high school basketball. It’s hard to play against. The Princeton stuff on offense is hard to defend. I’m really pleased with our guys’ focus, attention and energy.”

And then: “We’ve played seven games and we’ve seen zone every night and majority zone in six of them. We’re finally getting the handle of how to attack some gaps and get some movement. We were very efficient.”

Johnson led Davie in scoring for the fifth straight time with 17 points. He added six rebounds and three assists.

Reid performed beautifully with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He’s made dramatic strides, going from a 0.9-scoring backup as a junior to the No. 3 scorer (9.5) as a senior.

“We knew he had the potential to be a good 3-point shooter, and tonight he shot them with confidence (while making 2 of 3 from distance),” Absher said. “We knew all offseason he had the ability to do that. Boy, he stepped up and did it tonight.”

Maddox put up a strong stat line with 10 points, 6-6 free-throwing shooting, five rebounds and four assists. He rebounds exceptionally well for a 5-11 guard.

“Sometimes your guys in the paint can do a great job of boxing out, but when the ball comes off long off the rim it’s hard to get to,” Absher said. “So guards have to stick their nose in there and get it, and Za’Haree has done a very good job of that.”

Redmon had five points and two blocks, including one highlight-reel rejection from behind that triggered a fast break the other way. Iverson King had three points and two assists. Jaydin Spillman had two points. Taylor contributed four boards.

Davie shot 46 percent overall (18-39).

Carson 70, Davie 61

Davie returned to earth in a road game on Dec. 19. Four War Eagles (Johnson, Luke Williams, Maddox and Reid) scored in double figures, but they were trumped by a one-man band: EJ Clark.

The Cougars entered with a unimpressive 4-5 record, but they rode Clark’s 37 points to an upset win. The 6-4 senior lefty converted 13 of 18 field goals – tying the school record for points – and scored 19 in the fourth by hitting 9 of 11 free throws. He also had seven rebounds.

It was his usual amazing game. Clark has registered at least 20 points in nine of 10 contests, and he leads Rowan County in scoring.

“He’s a monster who can fill it up,” Salisbury Post reporter Mike London said.

The first half was back and forth, and Davie only trailed 19-17 at halftime. But it spit the bit in the third, when Carson carved out a 45-35 lead.

Carson widened the gap to 60-45 with 3:17 to go. The War Eagles did not roll over. They rallied within 65-61, but only 30 seconds remained and Clark kept hitting free throws.

Johnson was cold early, but he warmed up late to finish with 22 points. He yanked down a game-high 10 rebounds to go with two assists and two steals. The senior wing has 97 points across five games, boosting his team-high average to 19.4.

Davie’s hiccup overshadowed a turnaround performance by Williams, who scored 13 after only managing six over six games. He made 5 of 9 field goals and 3 of 6 3s.

Maddox had 12 points and four assists. Reid had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. King had three points and Spillman one. Zach Smith contributed four rebounds.

Notes: Davie was limiting opponents to 43.5 points before running into Clark and Carson. … Davie (6-2) suffered disappointing shooting numbers: 21 of 59 overall (35 percent) and 7-26 from long range (26 percent).