Boys hold off Lexington for win

Published 2:37 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The meat of the Central Piedmont Conference schedule doesn’t arrive until January, but it didn’t take long for Davie’s varsity boys basketball team to play a physical, intense, CPC-type game. The War Eagles found themselves in a brawl in the Nov. 21 season opener against visiting Lexington.

Davie shrugged off Lexington’s torrid outside shooting in the first half, overcame a halftime deficit and rallied for an 82-72 victory.

“The people came and supported and we rose,” coach Josh Pittman said. “I think it’s a good start for us.”

How intense was this nonconference game? There were five technical fouls (three on the Davie side, two on the Yellow Jackets), including a second-half dust-up that resulted in three Ts.

“We were not stepping up to the challenge of the way they were playing (in the first half),” Pittman said. “They were playing physical, scrappy, hard, holding, and that’s what’s going to happen when we play. If you let us play finesse, we’re going to beat you by 20. If you play physical, you push and you hold, we have to adjust to that. I will say, last year we might’ve lost that game. But tonight we maintained a lead in the second half. We got through adversity and pulled out a good win.”

Junior big man Jackson Powers produced a splendid line of 16 points, 11 rebounds, five steals, three assists and three blocked shots. He can shoot the 3 with anybody, but he mostly operated down low in this one.

“He is shifty,” Pittman said. “With the addition of (Calvary transfers) Bryson (Mickey) and Gavin Williams and the way the other kids shoot the ball, it’s going be important for Jackson to get down there on the block. He did a wonderful job. He showed a lot of post moves, and that’s what we work on every day.”

Powers is a bona fide star, but you knew that already. The news of the night was clearly the addition of Mickey. He enrolled at Davie less than a week before the opener. The 6-0 junior guard might not be an athletic wonder, but the dude can play. He’s crafty and savvy and cerebral. He showed his range, he backed his man down and he put up 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting and handed out five assists even though he hasn’t had time to get comfortable in his new surroundings, even though he didn’t check in until late in the first quarter.

“He really hasn’t gotten his basketball legs because he was out for about a week and a half,” Pittman said. “Once he gets in shape and we get used to the way he plays and he starts to learn the plays, I think he’ll be able to help us a lot more. (Transferring is) a difficult thing, but the good thing is, he knows most of these guys. They’ve all played together coming up at the Rise. They know each other, so he came in and fit right in with the group.”

Four War Eagles scored in double figures, including point guard Coleman Lawhon (14) and Ethan Ratledge (13).

Behind Lawhon, Elliott Erlandsson, Powers and Ratledge, the War Eagles came out like gangbusters and drained their first five shots. When Ratledge got a steal and passed back to a trailing Powers for a 3, the lead was 11-3 and Lexington called a quick timeout.

But give the Yellow Jackets credit. After Davie landed the big uppercut right out of the gate, they punched Davie in the mouth, hitting five straight 3s to storm to an 18-13 lead.

Davie was down 39-31 when Mickey exploded for seven points in the last minute of the half. After hitting two free throws, he sank a 3. Then Lawhon got a steal and dished inside to Mickey, who cut Lexington’s lead to 40-38.

“He’s a gamer,” Pittman said of Mickey. “I watched him play all summer.”

Davie trailed 42-38 at halftime despite 55-percent shooting (16 of 29). The reason: Lexington outscored Davie 24-9 from beyond the arc while hitting 8 of 10 3-point tries.

The second half was entertaining as well, but most of the impressive moments belonged to the home team. After it was 44-44, the War Eagles converted 10 of 11 field goals to grab control at 65-55. Lexington pulled within 67-63 in the fourth quarter, but Ratledge had the answer, driving and banking it home while drawing a foul. When another Lawhon steal/assist resulted in a Mickey bucket, it was 72-63.

The Yellow Jackets had a couple more surges in them. They closed the gap to 72-68, but Mickey assisted Lawhon, who cut inside and converted. After missing five straight from long range, Lexington popped a 3, then banked an and-one to cut the margin to 77-74.

But Ratledge, Ethan Driver and Lawhon extinguished Lexington’s hopes for an upset by going a combined 5 of 6 at the line down the stretch.

Lawhon was an efficient 5-of-8 shooting and added five assists, five steals and four rebounds. Ratledge is coming off a junior year in which he averaged 6.7 points and 7.8 rebounds, but his double-double was breakthrough production. Along with scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting, he cleaned the glass to the tune of 13 rebounds.

“Ethan can do it every single time, it’s just a matter of him not being timid to start the game and being aggressive and playing to his strengths,” Pittman said. “He’s strong and he knows he’s strong; he just doesn’t use it all the time. I’m going to stay on him all year long until he gives it to me consistently because I truly believe he’s one of our top players when he’s locked in and ready to work.”

It felt like Davie’s depth and versatility played a big role in the win. Pittman kept sending fresh waves of talent at the Jackets. The cupboard was stocked before Mickey and Williams (eight points) transferred in. Now Davie is a CPC contender for many, many reasons.

The 6-7 Williams hit 4 of 7 field goals. Adam Brown and Erlandsson had four points each. Braddock Coleman had three points, three rebounds and two steals. Driver had three points, three assists and two steals. Isaac Swisher had two points. Gavin Reese had two assists. Junior Landon King, coming back from a devastating knee injury from the 2022 football season, saw his first varsity action since his freshman year.

“The good thing about this team, you’ve got Adam Brown, Ethan Driver, Gavin Reese, Braddock Coleman,” Pittman said. “These guys come in and play within intensity. They might make mistakes, but they play with intensity and they play hard. Their hands were busy, they got key steals and they helped motivate the team to play harder. That’s something we may have been lacking last year that we have this year.

“If you’re working and you’re doing what we ask you to do and you play hard, then you’re going to be on that court.”

Notes: Davie missed 9 of 12 3s but still shot 59 percent (32-54) overall. It was a sizzling 29 of 42 on two-point shots. … Lexington cooled off from deep (9-18 for the game) and shot 38 percent overall. … Pittman defeated his former school. He coached Lexington from 2018-19 through 2020-21.