Big man comes through in clutch for War Eagles

Published 2:14 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

In the Central Piedmont Conference opener against visiting East Forsyth, Davie’s varsity boys basketball team was down at halftime. It was still down at the end of the third quarter. Less than two minutes into the fourth, senior Coleman Lawhon picked up his fourth foul.

It was looking like an ill-timed, unremarkable night for the War Eagles. But just when a seventh straight loss to East seemed like a distinct possibility, the explosive tandem of passer Bryson Mickey and shooter Jackson Powers led a 37-point assault in the fourth, propelled Davie to 74-69 victory and kept the War Eagles unbeaten. After sitting for awhile with the fouls, Lawhon returned and sealed the deal with clutch free throws.

Powers’ 16-point fourth quarter and an electric atmosphere in the Davie gym were early Christmas presents for coach Josh Pittman.

“This is huge,” Pittman said. “We had lost six straight to East. When we’ve got this kind of crowd, we have to give them something to keep coming back. Tonight that is what we did. The energy was perfect. The community was perfect. You cannot ask for anything more than a packed gym.”

Davie 81, N. Iredell 70

At North Iredell on Dec. 12, the War Eagles showed some ragged edges on defense but they handled business against an overpowered nonconference opponent.

Pittman was not pleased with a 29-25 first quarter, when the Raiders (2-5) hit five 3-pointers and traded buckets. But he didn’t have many complaints with the middle quarters. Davie led by as many as 24 (69-45 late in the third) before allowing North to close the gap in the inconsequential fourth.

“I was kind of upset with the first quarter,” Pittman said. “They shot the ball well, but again, I don’t think we paid attention to detail.  I put on the board that two guys would shoot the majority of their shots. Giving up 25 points to that team, in my opinion, was way too much. To their credit, they did shoot the ball extremely well in the first quarter.

“In the third quarter, we played extremely well.”

Mickey (18 points, four 3s, three assists), Gavin Williams (15 points, three 3s, six rebounds), Powers (14 points, 6-8 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists) and Ethan Driver (12 points, 4-5 shooting, three steals) all scored in double figures. An under-the-weather Lawhon managed seven points, four rebounds and three assists. Thirteen players saw action, including Ethan Ratledge (six points), Isaac Swisher (four), Elliott Erlandsson (four) and Landon Waller (one). Braddock Coleman was out sick and Gavin Reese missed his third game with an injury.

Davie 74, EF 69

After jumping to an 11-6 lead, the War Eagles found themselves in trouble as East stormed to a 24-17 lead. They trailed 29-25 at halftime and they failed to solve their shortcomings in the third, making just 5 of 13 shots and going 1 of 6 from the arc in the quarter. Davie was down 40-34 late in the third and Pittman was looking for answers.

“He did (yell at halftime), but I’m not going to go into details,” Powers said.

“We were trying to do too much one-on-one,” Mickey said. “We shot too many 3s in the first half that were one-pass 3s.”

But in the fourth quarter, Davie rode a raging Powers. Before the big man took over, Lawhon scored on an offensive rebound to cut East’s lead to 40-39. Davie missed a layup and East drained a 3 at the other end, but Powers came through with a fallaway shot in the paint.

For the next several minutes, Mickey and Powers put on a show. Mickey found Powers in the left corner. He was fouled on a 3-point attempt and buried all three free throws to give Davie its first lead (44-43) since it was 13-12.

A whistle at the 6:10 mark forced Pittman to sit Lawhon, and then Davie failed to convert a fastbreak layup. Matters were compounded when East scored on the ensuing possession. But Mickey backed his man down and scored in the lane to put Davie in front 46-45.

After it was 50-50, Mickey did several ridiculous Mickey things and Powers’ 3-point barrage began. Mickey attacked the lane, drew two defenders and dished to the left corner to Powers. Splash. Davie was back ahead.

Moments later, the same thing happened: Mickey drew attention as he broke the fullcourt press, and he zipped a pass to the left corner to Powers for a 3-ball that made it 56-50.

This whole play was a sight to see because Powers was wiping sweat off his hands when the ball was in play. When Coleman was inbounding at the far end, Powers was at the other end standing near the Davie bench asking for a towel. A teammate tossed him the towel as Driver received Coleman’s inbound pass. As Driver split a double-team and passed to Mickey, Powers threw the towel back, slid to the corner and prepared to get the ball. Then it was swish, 56-50. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Pittman: “That’s Jackson for you.” Powers: “It is Tracey (Arnold, assistant coach) at the beginning of the game and then I throw it back. Whoever ends up with the towel, I say, ‘towel me,’ and then they throw it at me. It might’ve been Adam Brown. Pittman walked up to me and said: ‘Get in the corner, get in the corner.’”

On the next possession, Mickey got the ball near midcourt. He dribbled for several seconds, worked his way into the lane and made yet another delivery to the left corner to Powers. For the third straight time, he drilled it. The flurry of 3s did not even move the net, and Davie had a 59-52 lead.

Mickey’s savviness, ball handling and basketball IQ were on full display.

“I saw (the secondary defender) was helping a little too much whenever I beat my man,” Mickey said. “It was chemistry between me and Jackson. We were down and the crowd helped us by giving us energy.”

“In games like that, you’re never going to be able to really run plays. You just have to make plays for your teammates,” Pittman said. “That’s just old-school, knowing how to handle the ball, knowing how to protect it and keeping your defender on your hip. We work on ball handling every day, but that is (Mickey’s) thing; that is one of his attributes. We are just trying to help him do better, but that’s one thing he does that makes him so effective. They were between a rock and a hard place because the floor was spread.”

Mickey and Powers didn’t do it all by themselves. Landon King, who closed the third with a much-needed 3 when East had the momentum at 40-34, won a loose-ball scrum on the East end and got it to Mickey, who scored as he was fouled to make it 61-54. Lawhon beat the press and assisted a Ratledge bucket. A Lawhon drive-by resulted in two. Lawhon whipped through the press and set up a Powers basket to make it 70-58.

“We had big-time contributors off the bench – Landon, Braddock and Ethan Driver,” Pittman said. “Although they did not score a lot, they still maintained their presence in the game.”

Lawhon’s assist to Powers appeared to ice the game, but certain victory began to unravel in the last minute. East got a four-point play. East got a stop and hit two free throws to chop the margin to 70-67 at :14.

But Lawhon’s two free throws made it a two-possession game, Powers drew a charge and Lawhon made two more from the foul line. Ballgame.

“We have faith in each other, and we knew we could rally together,” Mickey said.

What a game and what a night for Powers (27 points, seven rebounds). The junior made 10 of 13 field goals and was two points shy of his varsity career high. Mickey had 13 points and four assists. Lawhon battled sickness and fouls to put up 12 points, four steals and three assists. Ratledge had 10 points and three assists.

“It was a good experience for me,” Powers said with a smile. “I kept wanting to backdoor cut, and Pittman was like: ‘Stay there, stay there.’ It means a lot. Last year we went 0-2 (against East) and Will Gray hit a buzzer-beater (in overtime). It’s a great victory and everybody played a part in it.”

Notes: Davie (7-0) is enjoying its best start in five seasons (10-0 in 2018-19). … Davie trailed at halftime for the fourth time, but again, it found a way. “I told them at halftime the M.O. on us is play us physical, push us, hold us and we will start settling – and that’s what I thought we did in the first half,” Pittman said. … East, which finished first and tied for second in the CPC the past two years, fell to 1-5 while playing a brutal schedule. … Williams had five points, King three, Driver two and Erlandsson two. King and Coleman had two steals each. … Reese is out with an injury from football season. … In the fourth quarter, Davie shot 10 of 15 overall and 3 of 4 from 3.