MOUNT AIRY — There wasn’t much suspense to be had in the Mount Airy’s opening-round victory against Elkin in the NCHSAA 1A girls’ basketball playoffs.
After being clobbered by more than 30 points in two regular-season meetings, the Lady Elks seemed determined not to get bombed out of the gym by Lady Bear guards Jo Snow and Shaunae Sawyers, and they succeeded in that regard, playing tough perimeter defense on the tandem and holding them to just one 3-pointer. Unfortunately for Elkin, the No. 2-ranked Lady Bears have plenty of other weapons, like junior forward Asherah Smith, and there’s no stopping her, or Snow and Sawyers for that matter, in the transition game.
All three players scored in double figures as the Lady Bears sailed to a 60-35 opening round victory in which the Mount Airy starters sat out the final 10 minutes of the contest.
With Elkin and Mount Airy already so familiar with one another, the game played out in predictable fashion. Although the Lady Bears struggled from the field in the first quarter, they were able to keep Elkin (9-16) in check and build a 13-6 lead after one quarter of play. Snow and Sawyers actually had all 13 of the Mount Airy points, but all but three of them came on fastbreaks or drives to the basket.
Reagan Parks opened the second quarter with a basket for the Lady Elks, but Sarah Lankford quickly responded for her team. The Mount Airy lead was 17-11 when Smith, heretofore quiet for Mount Airy, suddenly went off and helped blow the game open. The junior started with a three from the top of the key at the 4:40 mark. Then she ran out on the fastbreak after seeing a teammate steal the ball, and scored an easy two more. At the 3:45 mark, she got hacked on a drive inside and sank two free throws. After Cameron Beals finally got a basket for Elkin, Smith drove the lane and hit a two-footer. Snow got in on the fun by running down a rebound and taking it coast to coast, but it was again Smith’s turn next time down, scoring two from the line after a steal. She ended up outscoring the Lady Elks 11-4 by herself in the second quarter, and after Madeline Mayfield drained a three in the last minute of regulation, the Lady Bears held a commanding 34-15 lead at the break.
Seven more Lady Bear baskets, nearly all of them on drives to the basket against Elkin’s extended defense, followed after halftime. Smith and Snow had three each and Sawyers one before coach Angela Mayfield gave all of them the rest of the night off with roughly two minutes left in the third quarter. Mount Airy led 48-21 at that point, and the Lady Bear reserves played the rest of the game to a virtual draw.
“I thought we weren’t patient enough with the ball early on,” said Coach Mayfield. “But we picked it up defensively settled down offensively, especially in the second half.”
In the final period, Bailey Flippen and Amber Arnett hit threes for the home team, but the highlight may have come when senior Tatyana Long stole the ball underneath the basket and flipped a long pass ahead to Shalin Revels, who finished against a double-team and what appeared to be a foul that wasn’t called.
“Those girls work hard, and it’s always nice to get in there and play,” said Coach Mayfield. “They did a really nice job of sharing the ball and getting ball movement.”
Smith led the Lady Bears with 17 points. Snow added 16 and Sawyers 10. Kylie Thomas led Elkin with 11 points. Laken Brown added seven, with Beals and Parks each scoring six.
The Lady Bears (25-2 overall) will host Lincoln Charter in the second round on Thursday night. The Lady Eagles (19-7), the third-place team in the Southern Piedmont Conference, topped North Stanly 54-50 in the first round on Tuesday night.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.