Boys earn first basketball playoff win in five years

Published 12:59 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The Davie boys basketball team redeemed itself. Yes, its showing in the conference tournament against Reynolds was quite a dud. But the great thing about sports is there is often a chance to make amends.

In the first round of the state playoffs against visiting Northern Guilford on Feb. 27, the War Eagles played just as coach Josh Pittman had hoped. They won their first playoff game in five years, 69-53, and joined exclusive company with their 22nd victory.

“We played together,” Pittman said after 10th-seeded Davie won a playoff game for the first time since edging Hopewell 63-61 in 2019. “We moved the ball. The whole team played well.”

After the War Eagles stubbed their toe in the first round of the conference tournament, Pittman gave them two days off before putting them through some demanding workouts.

“I killed them Thursday and Friday,” he said. “We came back and played some basketball on Saturday. It was steps, it was wall sits, it was anything you can think of that had defense on it. We did steps in the gym, slides, jump rope. We got back to playing some defense.”

Senior point guard Coleman Lawhon came out strong. He assisted the first three buckets – a long pass to Ethan Driver, a post entry to Jackson Powers and a dish to Bryson Mickey for a 3-pointer – and had four assists before the game was nine minutes old.

Davie’s passing was extremely impressive, reminiscent of what fans saw during the record-breaking 16-0 start. On one fast break, the ball moved from Lawhon to Mickey to Ethan Ratledge. Mickey’s third straight 3 provided a 39-26 lead, and the halftime margin was 39-29.

“Coleman played a real good game,” Pittman said. “He took care of the ball and did not fold under pressure. He was assisting, scoring when he had to and got things back in order and called plays.”

The 23rd-seeded Nighthawks, though, gave Davie a scare in the third quarter. They drilled 5 of 6 shots during a 12-0 run. Davie missed five straight shots and found itself behind 43-42 with 2:52 left in the third.

“We missed some defensive assignments,” Pittman said. “I told them we’ve got to stay disciplined. Against good teams, it could be the slightest reach and you’re going to pay for it. The slightest out of position – offensive rebound. The slightest reach – kick, 3. They are a well-coached team.”

The War Eagles responded beautifully to Northern’s push, exploding for a game-ending run of 27-10. It was ignited by reserve Adam Brown. Seventeen seconds after Davie fell behind, Brown drove, the defender tried unsuccessfully to draw a charge and Brown scored on his first shot attempt of the night. Powers posted up, the defender flopped and the big man laid it in. Powers received a pass from Mickey and sank a 3. Powers took a feed from Gavin Williams and scored inside. Then Brown struck again, this time on a 3-ball on his second shot of the game.

One particular possession was symbolic of Davie’s tremendous passing. When Powers rebounded a missed free throw by N. Guilford, 7:33 remained in the game. Eight passes later, Pittman didn’t like what he saw and called timeout. On the 21st pass of the possession, Mickey hit Ratledge on the low block. Ratledge converted, Davie had milked 84 seconds off the clock and the hosts had a 56-48 lead at 6:09.

The War Eagles still had some work to do. After N. Guilford got within 56-50, Powers scored as he was fouled and completed the three-point play. When it was 59-53, the ball went inside to Powers, but he spotted Driver, who nailed a 3. If that didn’t take the wind out of the Nighthawks’ sails, this play did: Lawhon drove to the paint and kicked it to the right corner. Mickey’s 3 made it 65-53. With 2:30 left, N. Guilford was cooked.

Powers was terrific, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting to go with eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. Mickey (15 points, 5 assists) was a sizzling 4-of-5 from long range. Ratledge played big with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists.

“They were doing quick charge falls (against Powers),” Pittman said. “So they were bumping and falling. That made (Powers) a little hesitant to try to go around the contact, which I understood. I told him don’t fade – it’s always boom and up. (Ratledge) got downhill to his left. He posted strong and rebounded the ball well.”

Driver (9 points, 4 rebounds), Brown (5 points), Lawhon (4 points, 6 assists, 2 blocks), Williams (4 points, 2 assists, 2 blocks), Landon King (2 points) and Elliott Erlandsson (2 points) contributed as Davie (22-4) became just the third squad in the school’s 68-year history to reach 22 victories. The other two: 23-7 in 2011-12 and 24-3 in 2018-19.

“We got back to playing Davie basketball, especially on the defensive end,” Pittman said. “Gavin gave us good minutes. Landon did good things defensively.”

Notes: N. Guilford finished 17-10. … The CPC went 3-3 in the first round. East Forsyth won 78-57 over South Caldwell and Mt. Tabor won 68-44 over Palisades. Parkland lost 83-36 to Lake Norman, West Forsyth lost 66-62 to Mooresville and Reagan lost 73-64 to Watauga. … Davie converted 9 of 18 3s and shot 47 percent overall. N. Guilford struggled to 33 percent.