Boys win by 47; Powers tourney MVP

Published 2:35 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

There’s an expression: “When pigs fly.” It aligns with the East Davidson boys basketball team’s story in 2023-24.

Over the past 12 seasons, the Golden Eagles have finished 4-15, 8-18, 3-20, 2-21, 6-17, 5-20, 6-17, 4-19, 1-22, 1-13, 0-24 and 3-23. That’s a 12-year record of 43-229.

But the perennial doormat has enjoyed a remarkable rebirth this year. The out-of-nowhere Golden Eagles entered the Davidson-Randolph Christmas Classic championship game with a 10-3 record – already more wins than they had over the previous five seasons combined (9-101 from 2018-19 through 2022-23).

But when East met Davie in the final at Ledford on Dec. 29, when a feel-good story was matched with a red-hot 4-A squad that has produced the most sustained excitement in five years, the undefeated War Eagles made East look around for ghosts. Faster than anyone could say Jackson Powers’ name, that was that.

Davie was infinitely better, 83-36.

The 11-0 War Eagles are riding their longest winning streak since a 13-gamer in 2018-19. This is their first 11-0 start since the 2010-11 club opened with the same mark, a team that was led by two future NBA players in Caleb and Cody Martin. The twins were surrounded by older brother Raheem Martin, Nate Jones and Shannon Dillard.

Davie charged out to a 31-14 lead in the first quarter. After blitzing East out of the gate, though, the War Eagles completely lost focus in the second quarter. They got outscored in the quarter and led 41-27 at halftime.

“We let them back in it,” coach Josh Pittman said. “We started thinking about scoring as opposed to continuing to play defense.”

In the third, Davie got back to playing at its best. It exploded for 33 points, widened the gap to 74-34 and Pittman emptied the bench for the last 10 minutes.

“We had a strong conversation at halftime,” Pittman said. “We stayed locked in all the way through (the third). The guys were really engaged on both ends. They were talking, the ball was moving well, getting layups and good looks. We were playing inside-out if we could not score in transition. It was one of our better quarters.”

Powers has been running hot for a while and the junior had a masterful game. He dropped 23 points on East with perfect shooting: 8 for 8 from the field, 3 for 3 from the 3-point arc and 4 for 4 from the foul line. He was a shoo-in for tournament MVP.

Junior guard Bryson Mickey was named to the all-tournament team after scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3 of 6 from distance.

“Jackson continues to be hot,” Pittman said. “Mickey was solid. He did not score a lot against West Davidson (in the semifinals), but he facilitated the game.”

Pittman was disappointed that no one else from Davie was named all-tournament. Ethan Ratledge had eight points, six rebounds and made 3 of 4 shots. Coleman Lawhon, two weeks removed from his 15-assists game at Alexander Central, was a passing demon again as he handed out nine assists to go with six points, four rebounds and two steals.

“I don’t think it was fair that we only got one on the all-tournament team, but they spread it out between the Davidson County schools,” Pittman said. “It could’ve been Ratledge and it could’ve been Coleman. Coleman had another (big) assist game. Coleman’s first two games were not as good as his normal, but he got it together (in the final). Ratledge was consistent the whole tournament.”

Davie got scoring contributions from 12 players, including Gavin Williams (eight), Ethan Driver (five), Elliott Erlandsson (five), Braddock Coleman (four), Adam Brown (three), Landon King (two), Landon Waller (two) and Cam Owens (two).

The War Eagles, who outmatched Thomasville and West Davidson in the first two rounds, shot a incredible 64 percent (31 of 48 overall, 8-19 from 3). East only made one 3 and went 15 of 38 for 39 percent.

But Davie (1-0 CPC) has bigger goals ahead. Now it’s time for the Central Piedmont Conference race. Pittman believes Davie has everything it needs to vigorously chase the regular-season crown.

“All the guys seem to be in a good mental space,” he said. “They are locked in and playing together. Not too many high school teams are going to see score 30-plus points in a quarter, and we’ve done it several times. I think we are trending in the right direction.”

Since there’s not an obvious title favorite, it’s going to be an absolute bloodbath.

“It’s going to be tough,” Pittman said. “I set a goal of winning five of the first seven in the first round of the conference because we have four on the road and three at home. We’ve already got one in the bag with East (Forsyth). It’s about grabbing what we can on the road and winning at home. We’re more than capable of doing it, but we have to play some really good games and maintaining in some other games.”

Sophomore backup guard Gavin Reese missed his eighth game with an injury. “He’s got a back issue going on, so he won’t be able to play for a while,” Pittman said.