Brown leads boys to nailbiter win

Published 1:59 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2024

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The Davie boys basketball team’s leading scorer, Jackson Powers, had a quiet game at Reagan on Jan. 3. He managed only – only! – nine points, six rebounds, two blocks and two charges on the defensive end.

It ultimately didn’t matter. When you’ve got several weapons, when you’ve got a bench as deep as Davie’s, it’s easy to see how the War Eagles can mess teams up.

While Powers was held to three field goals, Bryson Mickey, Ethan Ratledge and Coleman Lawhon combined for 45 points. And then there was a junior reserve named Adam Brown who raised eyebrows with eight points, all of which were massively important in a 67-61 nailbiting victory in Pfafftown.

While the Raiders slipped to 9-3 overall and 1-1 in the Central Piedmont Conference, the War Eagles stayed perfect at 12-0, 2-0.

“This year we are a lot more balanced,” coach Josh Pittman said. “We always seem to have 3-4 guys in double figures, and then we have one or two with eight or nine points. To me, those are the toughest teams to beat because it shows balance and sharing the ball is huge. If somebody does have an off night, we’ve still got some pieces who can come in and do well.”

In the first half, Mickey buried a step-back 3, then hit another 3 with a man in his face. Landon King ran down a pass that got away. He dribbled along the baseline and alertly found Brown open in the right corner. Brown’s triple provided the largest lead of the night at 38-29. (You would hear from Brown again.)

The Raiders burned the nets in the first half, hitting 15 of 30 shots and 3 of 5 3-point tries, yet they trailed 42-35 at the break because the War Eagles were even hotter -15 of 25 overall, including 6 of 13 from 3, for 60 percent.

Mickey was the catalyst in the first half. He used his shot-making (4 for 4 overall, 3 for 3 from deep) and ball handling to score 15 points. He finished with a game-high 19 points, the third time he’s hit that mark. He was shooting 89 percent from the foul line before going 6 for 6 from the stripe in this one. He also had four rebounds and two steals.

Lawhon was a key part of setting the tone, scoring eight of his 13 in the first half.

“He’s a gamer, man,” Pittman said of Mickey. “He plays big in big games and he enjoys the moment, and I think that takes some of the pressure off other guys and it helps them relax more and play better as well.

“Last year they were pressing up on (Lawhon), they were physical, they were ripping him, and he had a tough go at it. This year we’re starting to see him make adjustments and go at people who are trying to pick him up full court and play physical.”

Reagan battled back in the third, an 11-2 run giving the host a 46-44 lead. Davie had reason to be concerned because it appeared to be losing juice and Powers, who came in averaging 15.4 points, was having a rare off night scoring-wise. Give credit to Reagan senior Cooper Jackson, a formidable inside presence.

“(Cooper Jackson) is a big dude,” Pittman said. “He’s 6-6 or 6-7 and his wingspan is huge. He was walling up.”

But Davie’s response to the 46-44 deficit was absolutely fantastic. Mickey’s drive and lefthanded finish stopped Davie’s 0-for-5 drought from the field and ignited a 12-4 run. Mickey drove again but this time kicked it out to Lawhon, who drained a 3. Brown received a pass in the lane, spun and converted a tough layup. Mickey fired an inbounds pass to Powers, who popped a 3 with a defender running at him. Ratledge took his man to the hoop and scored to give Davie a 56-50 lead.

Lawhon, though, picked up his fourth foul with 7:09 remaining, and Reagan again made it a fight as it rallied to tie things at 56 with 4:31 remaining.

After Davie had missed six straight shots, Brown and Co. dug in. Brown sprinted from the baseline to the top of the key, got a screen and received a pass from Lawhon. Brown’s 3 provided a 59-56 lead. On the ensuing defensive possession, Powers drew a charge. It was the second time that Powers took a charge that negated a Reagan basket.

Brown came in averaging 2.5 points, with four scoreless outings mixed in. His coming-out party came at a great time as he scored eight on 3-of-4 shooting.

“Adam also played well against West Davidson and East Davidson,” Pittman said. “Added on to that, he stacked some good practices and I think he’s in a nice little rhythm right now and he’s found some confidence. Seeing the ball go through the net a couple of times will do that for you. He also played well on the defensive end. Adam is always Adam – he just took it in stride and enjoyed the moment, and I’m sure he’ll be ready for practice today.”

Here was the cherry on top: Brown passed to Powers in the left corner. He was open for a 3, but instead of firing, he spotted Ratledge cutting through the lane. Ratledge’s uncontested layup was the dagger at 62-57.

“That’s all about sharing the ball and making the extra pass,” Pittman said. “Early in the game, we passed the ball seven times and we ended up getting a 3-pointer from Bryson. We passed the ball, we penetrated, we stopped, we kicked. That’s stuff we work on every day and I was impressed. Sometimes you just have to sit back and let ‘em play.”

Ratledge only needed six shots to score 13. Lawhon turned in 13 points and five rebounds. Gavin Williams chipped in five points. Davie drew four charges in all, including one each from Williams and Mickey.

“I keep telling everybody that will listen, Ethan (Ratledge) can play basketball,” Pittman said. “He’s crafty. He scored at the end of the half, and the one at the end of the third, he came to the left, came back right, went to the free-throw line, hesitated, crossed back over and made the layup. Those are big plays.”

The War Eagles beat Reagan after losing four of the previous five meetings, and they reached the best start in 24 years. The 1999-00 squad that was led by Duane Phillips/Dominic Graham and coached by Jim Young opened 15-0.

“This win was extremely important, but I don’t want them to settle,” Pittman said.