Tabor hands Davie boys a frustrating loss

Published 1:05 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The Davie boys basketball team’s highly-anticipated, first-place showdown against visiting Mt. Tabor on Feb. 2 in front of a phenomenal crowd was eventful, thrilling, frustrating and heartbreaking all at the same time.

The War Eagles faced a game-long uphill climb, but they charged to the finish line, only to come up short 62-56.

The outcome lifted the Spartans (16-4 overall) to 9-1 in the Central Piedmont Conference. They watched Davie break their 18-game winning streak in regular-season play on Jan. 5 in Winston-Salem, but they have rediscovered their swagger since that 59-53 decision, winning eight straight.

Now the second-place War Eagles (18-2, 8-2) need to win out and get some help over the last two weeks of the regular season if they’re going to tie for first. West Forsyth is third at 7-3.

One of the first signs of trouble for Davie was when No. 1 scorer Jackson Powers picked up his second foul with 1:45 left in the first quarter. He headed to the bench and Tabor ripped off a 16-5 run.

Neither team shot well in the first half. Davie shot 39 percent to Tabor’s 38 and the visitors held a 27-22 halftime advantage. While Davie’s main guys were struggling to find an offensive rhythm, it got a shot in the arm from sophomore Ethan Driver, who was Davie’s top scorer in the first half with six points, both buckets coming from beyond the arc on passes from Landon King.

“I’m proud of them,” coach Josh Pittman said. “The game was tough. It was physical. It was to a point that at halftime, I even told them they can’t run plays because of the way they’re letting the physicality take over the game, so we had to keep fighting.”

Tabor temporarily quieted the rowdy crowd by opening the second half with a pair of steal/layup baskets. With its deficit at 31-22, Davie began to creep back. Ethan Ratledge, who has missed one shot in two games, backed his man down in the paint, scored and triggered a 13-8 run.

Bryson Mickey was cold in the first half, but he caught fire in the third. He sank a 12-footer. He put in a finger roll in the lane. He drained a fadeaway. He knocked away a Tabor pass and directed it to King, who gave it back to Mickey, who drilled a 3 to bring Davie within 39-35 at the end of the third.

A trap in the backcourt caused a Tabor turnover, and King finished with a layup to cut Davie’s deficit to 43-37. But Davie was having to manufacture points, and the Spartans had answers for every punch that Davie threw their way.  Right after King’s bucket, Tabor got an easy two out of its halfcourt offense.

Coleman Lawhon corralled a long defensive rebound and made a spinning pass at halfcourt to King, whose layup made it 45-39. Tabor, though, immediately drove for a layup. Powers snatched an offensive rebound and fed Adam Brown, who scored through contact. But Tabor came right back and scored at the other end.

Lawhon got his hand on a Tabor pass, a turnover that led to an and-one by Driver. It was now 49-44 and Tabor was starting to melt in an edgy game.

But two calls – or non-calls – were exasperating for Davie. Mickey appeared to be in perfect position to draw a charge when a Tabor player bowled him over. There was no whistle, the shot missed and Tabor got the rebound. It scored on the putback to make it 51-44. Right after that, Lawhon’s close-range shot went in and out.

When Tabor scored on a leak-out with 3:28 remaining, it was 56-44 and all Davie hope had seemingly ended.

But no, the War Eagles had an unbelievable 12-4 run in them. Driver and Mickey both hit two free throws, Mickey buried a trey at 2:11 and the spectacular home fans were going bonkers.

The next big play added to Davie’s frustration, however. Lawhon forced a turnover. Powers got the ball and fed Brown, who put a short shot off the glass and in as the whistle blew. Blocking foul/three-point opportunity with a chance to draw Davie within 58-54 with 1:58 left … or charge? The call was a charge and it remained 58-51.

“A little bit here, a little bit there, a call here or a call there, or a no-call there or a defensive lapse on our part,” Pittman said. “We had a really close charge call – it was really close. That’s just a tough call in a tough situation, but that is basketball.”

Somehow, some way, Davie still fought back after that turn of events. A War Eagle floated a long inbounds pass to Powers, who caught it as he was backpedaling to the 3-point line. He made the fadeaway 3 from the left wing to pull his team within 58-54 at 1:21. Then Davie double-teamed a Spartan in the backcourt and got a turnover. This was a golden opportunity to get within two, but the layup was missed.

Davie was painfully close to making it 58-56 at :55. When Tabor rebounded that miss, its 31st-year coach, Andy Muse, could smell his 600th win.

Mickey paced Davie with 17 points. Driver (13) came up big, scoring his most points in 16 games, since his 16-point effort in the fourth game, by making 4 of 7 shots and 3 of 3 free throws. Ratledge (eight) went 3 for 3 from the field and 2 for 2 from the line, meaning he’s 13 for 14 on field-goal attempts across two games. King (six) hit 3 of 5 shots and added three assists and three steals. Lawhon had five points, five rebounds and two assists. Powers had three points and 11 rebounds. Elliott Erlandsson and Brown had two points each.

Davie couldn’t overcome Tabor’s obscene shooting in the second half (16 of 23, all on two-pointers).

“Some shots fell, some did not – that’s just basketball,” Pittman said. “But to be right there at the end, when we could’ve been down 15-20, and you keep fighting and give yourself a chance, that is all I can ask. I’m proud of them.”