Davie boys suffer big loss; and a heartbreaker in Clemmons

Published 1:11 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

West Forsyth’s varsity boys basketball team was bigger and stronger than Davie at four of five positions (big Jackson Powers was the exception), but coach Josh Pittman has taught his boys to compete with grit and passion and to get the job done no matter the odds.

And they nearly did in Clemmons on Friday. They gave the Titans all they could handle. They were poised to win when Powers hit his fourth consecutive 3-pointer, but the final seconds were absolutely heartbreaking as West edged Davie, 63-59.

Although the scene was somber on the visitors’ side, Pittman saw a ray of sunshine amid the darkness of the losing locker room. He has no doubt that something special is brewing.

“If we continue to work hard in practice, we’ll continue to get better,” he said after Davie (11-4 overall) fell to 1-4 in the Central Piedmont Conference. “The future at Davie looks real bright. I told them I’m happy and proud of the reaction. At halftime I told them we can lose this game and I’m going to sleep good tonight because of the way we acted and we played well. That’s all I wanted to see, especially after (the Mt. Tabor game).”

Three nights earlier at home, Davie was blown out 70-30 by the first-place Spartans (11-1, 4-0 CPC). You knew it could get out of hand based on results against one common opponent in particular. Tabor steamrolled Reynolds 72-20; Davie needed a spirited effort to hold off Reynolds 64-58.

Davie entered with a six-game winning streak, but after a few minutes, it was clear the War Eagles were going to offer little resistance. Only five Davie players scratched, with only one in double figures. Coleman Lawhon had 10 points. Powers, Ethan Ratledge and Ian Koontz had six, and Braddock Coleman two.

After falling on their face against Tabor, the War Eagles were still on their heels at the start of the West Forsyth game. Pittman called timeout at the 6:20 mark of the first quarter with his team down 7-0.

But Davie rebounded from the miserable start brilliantly. A 16-0 run followed Pittman’s timeout, with Powers putting in half of those points, and the slugfest was on. Davie had a 23-12 lead before West responded with a 13-4 surge. When the dust cleared at halftime, it was 27-25 in favor of scrappy Davie, which got eight points from Lawhon, Powers and Ratledge, as well as 7-of-8 foul shooting.

“I said: ‘Trust the offense and trust your teammates and we’ll be fine. Keep moving the ball and they’re going to break down,’” Pittman said.

The Titans’ entire offense was based on shooting the 3 effectively. They only made three triples in the first half, but they nailed three quick ones in the third, resulting in a 43-34 deficit for Davie.

But Coleman has become a consistent X factor, and he contributed important plays each time his number was called off the bench. The sophomore guard made New York City drives to the hole and scored through contact. A 12-3 run erased West’s lead and forced a tie at 51.

“Braddock is not afraid of the moment,” Pittman said for not the first time. “He’s going to shine sometimes, and sometimes he’s going to make mistakes.”

During that 12-3 uprising, Ian Koontz scored inside (“Ian came in and played well off the bench,” Pittman said.), Coleman sank a short jumper and Ratledge converted in the paint. Then came back-to-back 3s from Powers, who was dazzling in the second half.

When Powers wasn’t drilling 3s, he was overpowering his man inside, including a spin move and left-hand finish that preceded a Ratledge stickback that put Davie in front 56-53.

Powers and Ratledge both used the pump fake to wrong-foot defenders. Ratledge would back his man down until he had a point-blank shot.

“We work on it every single day,” Pittman said. “When you’re playing against athletic kids that jump out of the gym, they’re going to try to block every shot. When you’re fundamentally sound, use your fakes and you’ll get whatever you want every time.”

Up by one with the ball, Lawhon and Powers executed a screen-and-roll, with Powers hitting the 3 that made it 59-55. West, though, wouldn’t go away. Its fifth 3 of the half cut Davie’s lead back to one.

The next Davie possession began at 2:25. The War Eagles chewed nearly a minute off the clock, but they were called for a charging foul at 1:27 and West hit a tying free throw at :43.

Davie still had the upper hand, but its 3 wouldn’t fall. A War Eagle had his hands on the rebound under the basket, but the ball squirted loose. West grabbed it and threw long for a breakaway layup. Down 61-59, Pittman called time at :11 to set up one last play.

The War Eagles turned it over before they could get a shot off, West got another run-out right before the buzzer and the home students stormed the floor.

Davie had come as close as a team can get without winning. It spoiled a truly great performance by Powers, who hit five of Davie’s six 3s and recorded his fourth 20-point game. He scored 22 by hitting 8 of 13 field goals, including 5 of 7 3s. He put in 14 of Davie’s last 30 points, and he snatched seven rebounds.

“My goal is to shoot the best shot with our feet set,” Pittman said. “I don’t care if it’s a 2 or a 3.”

Ratledge was tough as nails in the paint, scoring a season-high 14 on 6-of-9 shooting. He also had five boards and two assists.

“When we do our one-on-one drills in practice, I tell them when you’re patient, use your body and take your time, you’re going to get a bucket,” Pittman said. “I told Ethan: ‘They can’t guard you because you’re a lefty and you’re strong.’”

Notes: Lawhon (11 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Coleman (eight points) had strong games. Coleman hit 3 of 5 shots and both of his free throws. Koontz had four points and two blocks, and Hayden Williams had three steals. … Davie shot 54 percent in the second half (13-24). … Although the Titans (7-6, 3-2 CPC) had lost 10 of 11 and four straight to Davie, they had to be comforted by a 10-point loss to Tabor. Tabor beat West by 20 in the first meeting.