South Stokes battled Mount Airy in round four of the semifinals of the Northwest 1A Conference tournament on Wednesday evening at North Stokes. The Sauras clinched the number two seed for the state playoffs by beating the Bears twice this season, but Mount Airy ran away with a 77-74 win, advancing to the conference championship game on Friday.
“They played with more effort than we did,” said Saura coach Jason Clark. “I’m proud of my kids for the way they fought back after being down 14. We just kept grinding and came back against a very good team, a top five team in the state. We just didn’t finish the ballgame.”
South jumped out to a 5-0 lead behind senior Ben Bowen, but the Bears, the tournament’s number three seeded team, went on a 7-2 run and took a 17-16 advantage after one quarter of play.
Mount Airy found themselves on the free throw line numerous times in the first three minutes of the period and converted five-of-seven shots to take a 26-20 leg up. Their lead grew to 10 points when Gregory Greene grabbed an offensive rebound and went back up. South cut the score down to six points right before the half, but another put back by Jeremiah Rosser with 1.4 second left gave the Bears a 39-31 edge going into the locker room.
“Second chance points were a key in the first half for them,” Clark said. “We let them push us around and be more physical with us. We had to change that in the second half and we did.”
Greene led the Bears on an 11-5 run to start the second half put the Sauras down 50-36 with 4:36 to play in the third quarter. Bowen went to work on the inside drawing a fourth foul on Donovan Greene. A Saura 12-4 spurt brought them back to within six points forcing Mount Airy into a timeout with 2:16 left. The break didn’t slow the maroon and gold down and they closed the period trailing by only two points at 56-54.
The Sauras tied the game up and eventually took a 60-58 lead with more than six minutes left in the contest. Both teams traded baskets throughout the quarter until South took a 68-65 advantage with 2:37 on the clock forcing Mount Airy to take their third timeout of the game. Five consecutive turnovers by the Sauras sparked a 12-3 run with the Bears taking a 77-71 edge with 12.8 second left. A three-pointer by Brady Dudley with 3.3 seconds on the clock and a forced turnover by the Sauras bench players gave South the ball back with 0.8 tick remaining. After a timeout by Clark, the Sauras ran the perfect play and Bowen became open in the left corner for an uncontested three-point shot, but it just missed to end the game.
“We had a chance at the end and that is all I can ask,” the coach stated. “I have full confidence in Ben and it just rolled off. We lost two games earlier in the season on bad executions of an inbounds play, but that worked other than just not going in.”
Dudley led four Sauras in double-figure scoring with 19 points, Bowen finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Wesley Misenheimer and PJ Samuels added 16 each. Arrington scored 30 points for the Bears and Gregory Greene contributed 22.
South finished the season at 18-7 overall and 7-3 in conference play. Mount Airy improves to 16-7 and 6-4. The Sauras will await the NCHSSA 1A State playoff brackets to come out on Saturday, while the Bears will play Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy in the conference championship on Friday at North Stokes.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.