Varsity boys, Powers rally after being ripped by coach at halftime
Published 8:55 am Thursday, December 8, 2022
By Brian Pitts
Coach Josh Pittman went to tongue-lashing measures at halftime of the Davie varsity boys basketball team’s home game against West Wilkes on Nov. 29. Then Jackson Powers went nuclear. The combination inspired a 68-60 comeback win.
The War Eagles had a rough showing in the first half. They missed 21 of 30 field goals. They clanged all but two of their 12 3-point attempts while falling behind 31-21. Powers and Coleman Lawhon are essential for Davie’s prospects in 2022-23, but they had a combined five points on 2-of-9 shooting at intermission.
“It seemed like we reverted back to dropping our head after making mistakes and we were giving up 3s,” Pittman said. “If you see a guy that’s a shooter, all the coaching in the world is not going to matter if you’re not alert. I told them: ‘You beat them (77-45) last year; they’ve got pride. If you don’t think they’ve got pride, we’re in trouble.’ I was curious to see how they would respond (to getting ripped at halftime). They responded in a heck of a way.”
“He was yelling at us about No. 32 hitting 3s, and he wanted us to be more aggressive,” Powers said.
Davie flipped a switch. In the third quarter, W. Wilkes’ 10-point lead disappeared like a rack of ribs at a Saturday get-together. The War Eagles were in front 83 seconds into the second half. Powers hit back-to-back 3s, both assisted by Ethan Ratledge. An Ian Koontz steal led to a driving layup by Ratledge, who turned an ankle on the play and left for good with 7:03 left in the third. Lawhon hit a step-back 3. Lawhon scored on a steal/layup to complete a 13-0 run in a span of 2:32.
The Blackhawks did not roll over. They recovered to take leads of 36-34, 39-36 and 45-44.
That’s when Powers rose to the moment and took the game by the throat. Showing his versatility, he followed an inside basket with a 3-pointer. Powers threw an outlet pass to Lawhon, who assisted his cousin Braddock Coleman on a fast-break layup. A Lawhon rebound led to a three-second fast break that saw Powers drain a 3. When Powers hit another 3 moments later, he held out his hands and shrugged as he jogged toward the other end of the court, a la Michael Jordan in Game One of the 1992 NBA Finals.
Powers’ spectacular stretch wasn’t over. He received an inbound pass from Lawhon and swished a 3. Lawhon got a defensive rebound and pushed upcourt. He looked like he was going to pull up for a jumper but instead dished to Powers, who banged yet another 3. Davie had counterpunched West into submission, 63-47.
Here’s what’s outrageous about that 19-2 run: Powers had 16 of the 19 points. After going 1 for 5 for three first-half points, Powers nailed 10 of 12 shots to score 26 second-half points.
“I didn’t really do much (in the first half); I’ll admit that,” Powers said. “In the second half, I really turned it around. It was like heat check after heat check and I was making them all.”
The 6-6 sophomore had those 29 points on 11 of 17 overall shooting and 6 of 8 3-point shooting. He made his last eight shots and added 10 rebounds, three blocks and two assists. What a cool moment for a guy who averaged 2.7 points as a varsity freshman and had six points in the season opener.
“I know we’ve got players that can fill it up, and we play good team basketball,” Pittman said. “I told them I don’t get mad at y’all for shooting. Now I get mad if we shoot six straight jumpers. Let’s go to the block a little bit and penetrate and kick, and then those jumpers look a lot easier and they’re in rhythm. I told Jackson in the first half: ‘You’re just jacking it up because you’re open.’ There’s a difference when you catch it and you’re ready to shoot. You get your feet together and then you shoot. … When the rim opens for us, it opens fast.”
Hayden Williams, who hit a stunning six 3s in the 61-15 wipeout of South Iredell in the opener, couldn’t get many looks and hit his only triple with 3:19 left in the third. It didn’t matter. The senior unselfishly deferred to his teammates.
Lawhon showed his playmaking chops in a 12-point second half to finish with 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocks. He’s playing with an edge after averaging 4.8 points as a varsity sophomore.
“He’s been with me since June working on his game, at workouts, everything,” Pittman said. “The more and more he plays, and the more he gains confidence, he’s going to be a special kid for Davie.”
Ian Koontz had six points and four rebounds. Williams had five points and three rebounds. Ratledge had five points, six assists and three rebounds in basically a half of action. Coleman had five points and three rebounds. Landon Waller and Gavin Reese had two points apiece. Burke Rosenbaum contributed six rebounds and two assists as Davie cooked West 47-29 in the second half.
“We were playing for each other,” Pittman said. “They were playing a triangle-and-two or box-and-one – they were mixing them up – and we had to keep working and figure it out. At halftime, we said we’re going to run Zone Two, give us a high pick and give us space. That opened up Jackson to knock down shots. It’s the best response I could ever ask for as a coach. That was a blessing.”
West’s Andin Ashford (22 points, three 3s) and Harrison Holbrook (20 points, six 3s) gave Davie fits – at least until Powers started completely balling out.
“It’s not going to be all flowers all the time,” Pittman said. “You’ve got to go through it and learn. The first game we played well, but I knew it was fool’s gold because we weren’t tested by (S. Iredell). But West Wilkes is a solid team. They play hard and have shooters at every position. That’s what we needed. Three months ago, we probably would have lost that game.”