Boys fall to gifted Wonders

Published 10:11 am Thursday, January 2, 2020

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The Davie boys basketball team might have run out of juice down the stretch and lost to Kannapolis A.L. Brown, 69-54, in the semifinals of the Sam Moir Christmas Classic on Dec. 27, but the War Eagles left the court with positive vibes.

They were incredibly stubborn against a hugely gifted opponent.

The War Eagles had played nine games before meeting the Wonders at Catawba College, but this was by far their biggest test. The form sheet said Kannapolis by a substantial margin.

Although the Wonders lost twice in the Carolina Challenge in Columbia, S.C., a week earlier, one was 96-90 to Marion (S.C.). They are loaded with size, quickness and experience. Forward Kheni Briggs (6-3, 205) is among the state’s finest sophomores. JD Glenn is a 6-6 senior. They have beaten Carson three times this season (83-68, 76-59 and 58-54), and Carson beat Davie 70-61. They routed Mooresville 68-44, and Mooresville clipped Davie 48-46. They handled a solid West Rowan team 90-74.

Yep, the second-seeded War Eagles (7-3) had every reason to be wary of No. 3 Kannapolis (8-2). But they answered the bell early and often. Kannapolis had to sweat to subdue Davie in the fourth quarter.

“A.L. Brown is really good,” coach Mike Absher told the Salisbury Post. “We’ve beaten them each of the last three seasons, but we knew this was the season they’ve been building for. They are faster than us, but I thought we did a decent job of adjusting to their speed.”

Brooks Johnson’s 3-pointer tied the score at 15. Za’Haree Maddox’s pass to Avery Taylor gave Davie a 19-15 lead. Johnson assisted an Iverson King 3 as Davie cut Kannapolis’ lead to one. King scored on a spin move to pull Davie within one. Justice Redmon scored as he was fouled.

Although Kannapolis surged to a 45-35 lead midway through the third, the War Eagles didn’t budge. They showed no fear, no quit. They just kept coming. King’s basket off an offensive rebound triggered a 9-3 run. Maddox buried a triple. Johnson scored back-to-back buckets to pull Davie within 48-44.

“Davie is one of those teams that won’t beat themselves,” Kannapolis coach Shelwyn Klutz told the Post. “You’ve got to beat them.”

When Johnson converted a putback, Davie was down by five with six minutes left with a chance to pull off a massive upset. King’s 3 kept Davie within striking distance – five-point deficit – with around four minutes to go.

Kannapolis, though, flexed its muscles from there, outscoring Davie by 10 after King’s 3. Glenn finished with 17 points and Briggs added 15.

“They were just too physical for us,” Absher said. “They did a good job of playing to their strength. I’m proud of our guys for still being in it late in the game, but it was probably going to take one of those perfect storms for us to beat them. We needed to make a lot of 3s.”

King’s value was amplified again. The freshman scored 18 with three 3s, putting up a career high for the second day in a row. In two Moir games, his averaged jumped from 4.5 to 7.6.

King and Johnson drained five of Davie’s six 3s. Johnson’s 17 points was nothing new – his seventh straight game with at least that many. Maddox contributed seven. Redmon and James Reid had four each. Zach Smith and Taylor had two.

“Davie has a couple of guys (King and Johnson) that you can’t let them set their feet,” Klutz said.