First Posted: 2/17/2009
When calling E.J. Valentine out of the locker room for an interview, Mount Airy coach Kevin Spainhour referred to his forward as Hollywood. After Valentine hit the shot that gave the Granite Bears the lead with under a minute to play in Mount Airys 55-51 Northwest 1-A semifinal win over North Stokes, Valentine certainly was a star.
But, like any good story, this tale was also full of drama.
With the Bears clinging to a 51-48 lead with under a minute to play, North Stokes Adam Carter pumped faked a 3-pointer, Valentine bit and fouled Carter, who proceeded to sink three clutch free throws.
At first I thought I made a big mistake going for the block, Valentine said. During his free throws, all that was going through my mind was what I could possibly do on offense to keep us ahead.
I would have felt like it was my fault (if Mount Airy lost). I dont know what I was thinking trying to block his shot.
On Mount Airys next possession, Valentine who finished with 11 points refused to be denied, muscling in a shot with defenders on his back. After the ball fell through the hoop, Valentine let out a roar.
It was a big rush, Valentine said. I felt like I made a big play and like I kept us alive. I felt like I had to step it up a little bit to show my teammates that foul was a mistake and I shouldnt have done that.
What turned out to be a thrilling ending looked like a blowout from the start. Mount Airys full-court pressure wreaked havoc for the Vikings, leading to an advantage as wide as 16-2 in favor of the Granite Bears (21-4) near the end of the first quarter.
We wanted to press to get the tempo where we wanted it to be, Spainhour said. They missed a few shots and we jumped out on them. We ran our best offense in the first four minutes of the game.
North Stokes eventually broke the press with efficient passing, forcing Mount Airy into a halfcourt set.
Despite facing a massive deficit, the Vikings worked their way back into the game. By the third quarter, either team could have won the game.
The Vikings grabbed the lead midway through the third, but Dillon Bobbitt quickly restored order with a floater in the lane. The Vikings would regain the lead three more times and tie the score twice. Carter, who scored a game-high 24 points, provided most of North Stokes offense.
I thought they played great, Spainhour said of his opponents. They shot the ball really well, they were patient offensively and tried to hammer the ball in to Carter. I think Carter had one of the best games Ive seen him play.
Robbie Rives led Mount Airy with 13 points, followed by Wade Moody, who added 12.
Mount Airy was forced to use a perimeter game, as the Vikings packed the lanes. Aside from Rives hitting four 3-pointers, the Granite Bears didnt have much luck shooting. At the end of the day, Spainhour was simply glad to see his team advance to the conference title game to face Bishop McGuinness at 8 p.m. Thursday.
At this time of year, not all games are going to be pretty, he said.
Contact Ed Phillipps at [email protected] or 719-1921.
Mount Airy 55,
North Stokes 51
North Stokes 10 15 7 19 51
Mount Airy 19 10 7 19 55
North Stokes Adam Carter 24, Alek Ottaway 5, Matthew Bowman 5, Dylan Hall 12, Travis Booth 2, Austin Tilley 3
Mount Airy Wade Moody 12, Dillon Bobbitt 9, Torrance Hamilton 2, E.J. Valentine 11, Andrew Pelfry 2, Robbie Rives 13, Justin Collier 4, Drew Joyce 2