Mount Airy’s basketball team was understaffed, but still put on a great show Tuesday evening.
The Granite Bears held a scrimmage with East Wilkes, despite both teams still missing players because of football season. Mount Airy hosts South Stanly, and East Wilkes hosts Walkertown Friday in the first round of the state playoffs.
It’s always tough with 1A schools in getting enough basketball players together for practices when seasons overlap. However, this year things are worse because of Hurricane Matthew.
Because so many games were rained out on the eastern side of the state, the N.C. High School Athletic Association decided to move the first round of the playoffs from last week to this week.
Mount Airy, like many 1A teams, has several athletes playing multiple sports, including five basketball players still on the gridiron.
Jackson Smith is a returning starter, and Donovan Green is a sophomore who is expected to earn a starting spot. Gregory Green, Jeremiah Rosser and Tanner Jackson will provide depth.
Still, the Bears had enough firepower to rough up Cardinals at times. The teams played six periods: four for varsity and then two for JV.
The scoreboard was cleared after each period, letting players start anew, which was a good thing after the second quarter where Mount Airy led 18-0 until East Wilkes earned a shooting foul in the final 10 seconds. Then in the fourth period, the Bears outscored the visitors 22-2. That was a 40-4 difference for half the scrimmage.
The Bears did have two returning all-conference players on the floor, noted Coach Levi Goins. They were point guard Will Sparks and wing Caleb Arrington. Ryan Graham was another returning starter from last year.
Graduation left some big shoes to fill as Clay Mounce and 40 percent of the offense is gone, Goins pointed out. Still, the Bears have four starters back and Donovan Green, a sprinter who made an impact in spring track and fall football season since he was a freshman on JV last season.
Donovan is about 6-foot-2 and might be the most athletic player that Goins has ever been around, said the coach. Clay had some jaw-dropping dunks last year, but Donovan could make some highlight reels, too.
It all starts at the point, however, and Sparks did a great job setting the tempo last year, according to the coach. Will improved tremendously at the position over the summer. Goins expects him to lead on both ends.
Arrington is a great shooter and a good ballhandler who had a great sophomore season, Goins said.
Graham has good footwork and is versatile, able to play positions two, three or four, said the coach. He also was the leading free throw shooter in the conference last year.
Jackson Smith is a quarterback and linebacker on the football team, so he brings both toughness and leadership to the hardwood.
“Jackson is a workhorse,” said Goins. “He does everything he can to fulfill his roles.” He dives for loose balls, grabs rebounds and provides a physical presence. “That’s his nature. I love having a guy who is that way all the time.”
Gregory Green is a sophomore who played JV last year. Goins thinks he can contribute, especially on defense.
Moving up from the JV team are Mason Corn, Andrew Isom and Zack Hall. Jackson Heath (who didn’t play last year) and Simon Cawley, fresh off the soccer field, fill out the roster.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.