The Lady Bears came out firing against East Surry and won 81-67 Tuesday.
Mount Airy came into the game having scored just 70 points in the past two games combined, but posted 26 points in the first quarter and 48 by halftime.
Alex Atkins scorched the nets with six three-pointers on the way to a team-high 22 points.
She hit three three-pointers and a fast-break layup for 11 points in the fourth quarter after East had mounted a furious rally to tie the game at the end of the third.
Seven players scored two or more baskets in the first half for the Bears, led by Kathryn Beasley with nine.
The Bears led 26-18 after the first quarter, then pushed it to 10 about 80 seconds into the next period.
East’s Kacie Markle and Keri Fulp hit four free throws to make it a six-point margin, but Atkins and Davi Barbour hit threes. Then after a steal, Symone Simmons made a layup for a 40-28 game.
Atkins followed with her second three, and Mikayla Seivers completed a three-point play for a 46-28 lead.
When Beasley hit a pullup jumper in front of Fulp, the lead reached 20.
Before the half, East’s Gabi Jessup and Sydney Mosley scored to inch closer at 48-32 at the break. Mosley posted 16 points in the first half.
“The pace was really in our favor,” said Bear Coach Howard Mayo.
East Surry’s coach agreed.
“We played their game, and we lost,” said Keith Gunter. “We didn’t execute our game plan. We didn’t get back on defense and didn’t close out on shooters.”
The Cards took control of the third quarter, outscoring the Bears 16-3 to tie the game at 51 on an inside basket by Sydney Marion.
Jessup sparked the run with eight points, including three of the first four baskets in the half.
Jessup played off Fulp getting double-teamed, said Gunter. That shows the importance of getting Fulp involved on offense.
“We see it as a coaching staff, but it’s got to carry over to the girls on the floor,” he said.
In that third quarter, he said, “We did a better job of executing our game plan and put more pressure on them defensively.”
After Jessup’s hot start, the Bears had to play her more honestly, and then Fulp joined in with seven of her game-high 25 points.
Atkins hit a three to give the Bears a 54-51 lead, but Mosley hit one free throw and Lauren Thompson made a steal and converted two more free throws with 1.8 seconds left to tie the score again at 54 going into the fourth.
East Surry had reached the bonus by then, but Mount Airy had been content to stay outside shooting jumpers. The Cards didn’t have a single team foul in the third, and Bears Coach Howard Mayo must have noticed that, too.
The Bears opened the fourth by driving hard into the paint repeatedly.
After not shooting a single foul shot in the third, the Bears had five in the first 71 seconds, including a second three-point play for Seivers.
The girls did a better job of attacking the basket in the fourth, said Mayo.
Then with the defense sagging back inside, Atkins hit her fourth and fifth three-pointers of the game, finishing off a 12-0 start.
Fulp tried to bring the Cards back, scoring eight points including 6-6 from the line.
However, Atkins scored on a breakaway layup and her last three, and Beasley went 6-8 at the line to hold off any comeback.
“It was good to see the girls step up in that situation and make their free throws,” said Mayo.
“They had a lot of confidence after they jumped up to that big lead,” Gunter said of the Bears.
After Atkins’ 22, the Bears were led by Beasley 15, Barbour and Seivers 12 each, Jasmine Varney seven, Simmons and Andi Moore five each and Dana Brown three.
Seivers had eight of the Bears’ 21 assists. Beasley led the team with seven boards.
For East, after Fulp’s 25, the scoring came from Mosley 24, Jessup 12, and two each from Thompson, Marion and Markle.
Fulp had 13 boards and three assists. Mosley had five assists and Jessup three. Thompson led the defense with four steals.
The Cards started the season 12-1 and were in second place in the Northwest Conference. Now the team has lost its past two games including Friday’s one-point game with North Surry.
That puts East Surry (5-3) a half-game behind Surry Central and Bishop McGuinness (5-2).
For Mount Airy, the season has been split in half. The Bears started the season 6-1, then went 1-5 before this game.
At 8-6, 3-5 in the Northwest, the Bears are now just ahead of West Stokes and South Stokes (2-5 each) and half a game behind Winston-Salem Prep (3-4) in the battle for fifth place.
“I think we play in the best conference in the state because night in and night out, any team can win,” said Mayo. A big win like this should give the Bears the confidence to play against anyone come the state 1A playoffs, he added.
East Surry travels to West Stokes on Friday, while the Bears travel to Carroll County, Va., today before hosting rival North Surry on Friday.