Un-be-frigging-lievable: Boys erase 24 point deficit to keep perfect record intact

Published 11:34 am Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

After the first quarter, it was over.

The silence of the Davie fans said so.

The scoreboard – Reynolds 30, Davie 6 – said so.

The upbeat fans from Forsyth County said so.

Just eight minutes in, it was over.

And then it wasn’t.

After trailing by 24, after falling behind by 19 in the third quarter, the War Eagles rose from the dead and won going away, 65-56, on Jan. 19.

The improbable, riveting comeback that Davie’s boys basketball team pulled off in front of a rabid crowd will be etched in Davie lore forever, and it came with the War Eagles (15-0 overall, 5-0 Central Piedmont Conference) in the midst of a special season.

“To see that type of crowd fill up … that is a whole culture change,” coach Josh Pittman said. “It’s happening right before our eyes. It was standing-room only in there. We’ve had some crowds, but that’s probably the most I’ve ever seen. I honestly feel like we play better on the road. I feel like we’re more locked in and our mind is sharper, but when we’re at home, those people push us back into the game. That Davie energy is just unmatched.”

The win tied the record for best start/longest winning streak in Davie’s 68-year history. The 1999-00 War Eagles of coach Jim Young and star Duane Phillips started 15-0.

But the War Eagles were staring an upset loss in the face in the early going. Their only lead until the fourth quarter was a Coleman Lawhon steal/breakaway layup that gave Davie a 2-0 lead.

The War Eagles outplayed Reynolds in the second quarter, but they still trailed 38-22 at the half.

“We gave up 30 points (in the first quarter) to a team that averages 52 or 53,” Pittman said. “We paid attention to everything (in the scouting report), but I don’t think our energy was as good as it should’ve been or could’ve been. But it’s hard to be upset because it was exam week. We’re talking about kids. They were at home all day probably laying around, and normally we would have played on Wednesday and we would’ve been in a better spot. You’re talking about seven days off and most of the kids were at home Thursday and Friday, so I expected us to be a little flat – and you combine that with the way they shot the ball.”

In the first half, ice-cold Davie went 8 of 30 from the field, including 1 of 11 on 3-pointers, for 26 percent. Meanwhile, the Demons were 6 of 9 from 3-point range and 11 of 24 overall.

“If I heard ‘boom’ one more time (after a Reynolds 3), I was going to lose my mind,” Pittman said with a laugh. “They shot the lights out. What can you say except stay composed and try to get back in the game.”

What was Pittman’s halftime message?

“I said: ‘Our goal is to hold them to eight and eight (in each quarter),’” he said. “If we lock in and focus, we’ll be fine. If they shoot it like that all night, hey, so be it.”

The way the second half started did not give comfort to the Davie faithful. Reynolds buried another 3, making it 7 of 10 from long range. The deficit was now 41-22.

But Davie rampaged back, Jackson Powers igniting a 43-15 run with a 3-pointer. On a fast break, Ethan Driver assisted a basket by Ethan Ratledge. Driver scored off a steal. Ratledge completed a three-point play. You could feel the panic rising in Reynolds when Driver nailed a 3 to make it 46-36 with 2:22 left in the third.

Later in the third, Driver scored off an offensive rebound. Powers scored the next four points as Davie pulled within 50-42 at the end of the third.

Powers (16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks) went to work inside in the second half and finished with his sixth double-double of the season.

“I told Jackson: ‘Anytime it gets physical, you start migrating to the 3-point line. I need you on the block and I need you to do what Jackson Powers does,’” Pittman said. “Once he got on the block and started establishing himself, the rim opened up and we played wonderful defense along with that.”

In the fourth, Davie put the pedal to the floor and Bryson Mickey began lighting things up. Mickey’s trey made it 50-45 at 7:04. Less than a minute later, Driver’s offensive board led to another Mickey triple. Now it was 50-48.

Mickey paced the offense, rang up 19 points for the fourth time and drilled 4 of 5 3-pointers. Oh, and he also ripped down eight rebounds.

“Bryson started knocking down shots, but the main thing was we pounded the ball inside and that opened it up for the outside,” Pittman said.

When Powers drained a 17-footer to cut Reynolds’ lead to 52-50, Davie had the momentum and the crowd on its side. On a fast break, Lawhon made a beautiful dish to Powers, who tied it at 52 with 4:49 remaining. Driver blocked a shot, which led to a Mickey 3 that put Davie ahead 56-53 at 2:48 – its first lead since 2-0.

“Our defense created our offense,” Pittman said.

At this point, Lawhon was in his zone. He snatched a Reynolds miss and Davie was off and running, with Driver taking a pass from Powers and splashing a 3 that made it 59-53. The cherry on top was a Lawhon drive to the hole. At 61-53 with 1:25 on the clock, the epic comeback was all but in the books.

“I actually started freelancing in the second half,” Pittman said. “I called a play and Tracey (Arnold) said: ‘What’s that?’ I said: ‘Man, it’s something that’s going to work.’ I used to run it for a big guy who played at Marquette. That’s all I ran in the fourth quarter.”

Take a bow, Mr. Driver. All the sophomore did was score 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. It was his biggest scoring night in nine games. He also controlled six boards. Davie doesn’t win without Lawhon’s 10 points, four rebounds and two steals and Ratledge’s eight points.

Bench guys like Elliott Erlandsson (two points), Braddock Coleman, Adam Brown, Landon Waller, Cam Owens and Landon King also deserve some credit for their defense and intangibles. Reynolds shot 5 of 22 in the second half and got outrebounded 32-13 for the game.

Davie’s second-half shooting reads like a misprint: 14 of 18 overall, 5 of 7 from 3.

“I don’t mind losing, but to get where we want to go, we can’t lose at home,” Pittman said. “The whole team – Adam Brown, Landon King, Braddock Coleman, Ethan Driver, Cam Owens – played hard and it changed the game.”

Notes: Reynolds slipped to 9-8. … The top of the CPC standings entering the week: Davie 5-0, Mt. Tabor 6-1, West Forsyth 5-1. … Davie has a three-game winning streak against the Demons. … This was not the first magical comeback of 2023-24. On Dec. 8 at home, Davie trailed Alexander Central 47-33 at the end of the third. Davie outscored AC 29-6 in the fourth to win 62-53. A week later, Davie overrode East Forsyth’s 40-37 lead at the end of the third and won 74-69. … The comeback over Reynolds conjured up memories of the 2003 Sam Moir Christmas Classic final against Salisbury at Catawba College. The Hornets were ahead 50-32 with 7:10 to go. When the dust settled, Davie was a 67-58 winner. Josh Aiken (17 points), Michael Mashore (13), Foo Smith (13) and Cliff Burns (10) powered that miraculous rally.