Ben L. Smith Gymnasium, Greensboro
Why the Spartans won
Mount Tabor’s defense kept Smith from getting the ball inside for most of the night, and coach Andy Muse’s Spartans executed on the game’s final inbounds play to get a tough road win in arguably the state’s toughest Class 3-A conference, the Piedmont Triad. “The difference was we stopped them from getting into the paint and we boxed out,” Muse said. “We finished every possession with a box-out.”
Why the Golden Eagles lost
Smith didn’t get the ball to Nick McMullen inside often enough and coach Derrick Partee’s Golden Eagles settled for jump shots too often until the fourth quarter, when they battled back to tie the game. “They outrebounded us in the first half,” Partee said. “I’d be interested to see what the second half was. … It just came down to they had the ball last.”
The big play
Finley Simmons’ lay-in off an inbounds play under the Mount Tabor basket just before the buzzer gave the Spartans the victory.
“Our coach drew it up and he designed the play, so all credit to him for knowing what would happen,” said the sophomore guard, who finished with nine points. “Our guys just executed it. … I didn’t really think. We shoot little floaters like that every day in practice and warming up. It was just muscle memory putting it in the hole. It was a great feeling, just spectacular!”
Here’s how Spartans coach Andy Muse described the play: “We were running an upscreen and getting Shaylen (Woodberry) on an elevator screen. We were trying to get the ball to Shaylen and they all went for him. They were all yelling ‘Elevator!’ because they saw us do it before. Finley slipped wide-open and that was the last option.”
Smith’s Partee said: “Somebody switched. I don’t know who. We don’t teach switching. The film will tell.”
Three things we learned
1. The Piedmont Triad 3-A regular-season title will be decided Friday night. Mount Tabor and Parkland share the top spot, a game ahead of Smith. The Golden Eagles go to Parkland, while the Spartans finish at home against a Southwest Guilford team that is as dangerous as any in the conference. If Parkland beats Smith, the Mustangs win the title outright by virtue of their sweep of Mount Tabor. But if Parkland loses, Tabor can win the title outright by beating Southwest. A Smith win and a Mount Tabor loss would create a three-way tie for the title. “We can talk about all the games we want to,” Muse said, “but the game I’m concerned about is Friday night. We have to finish the deal and not worry about what everybody else does.”
2. Davis Blackwell loves playing against Smith. In the teams’ first meeting, the 6-foot-7 senior had 11 points in a 72-55 Mount Tabor win. Wednesday night he had 10, all in the first half. Blackwell doesn’t do anything flashy; he just finds the ball inside and finishes. “He came off the bench and did his job,” Muse said. “He plays a lot better when he plays against big players” such as Smith’s 6-foot-8 forward Nick McMullen. “We lost him a few times not helping the helper,” Partee said of Blackwell. “That second rotation wasn’t there.”
3. The Golden Eagles can’t stay down for long. Friday night’s game at Parkland is huge, not only for Smith but for Parkland and Mount Tabor. Then there’s the conference tournament and the state playoffs. “The crazy part is there’s still a chance” to share the Piedmont Triad 3-A title, Partee said. “But we wanted to win it outright. Obviously, that’s disappointing, but we still have the most important part of the season coming up.”
What they said
“This was a great high school game in the state of North Carolina. … Greensboro Smith’s a great team. We’re in a good conference. The top five teams can beat everybody. Winning a game like this on the road in the last week is huge.” — Andy Muse, Mount Tabor coach
“Everybody likes to talk about the last play, but (McMullen) missed the front end of a one-and-one right before that. If we make those two we’re in business. The game never comes down to one play.” — Derrick Partee, Smith coach
Mount Tabor: Friday, Southwest Guilford.
Smith: Friday, at Parkland.
Mount Tabor 15 10 8 12 — 45
Smith 14 10 8 11 — 43
Mount Tabor (7-2 Piedmont Triad 3-A, 21-2 overall) — Daniel Fulp 10, Davis Blackwell 10, Finley Simmons 9, Jakob Moore 8, Shaylen Woodberry 4, Jordan Hunter 2, Gunner Walters 2.
Smith (6-3, 17-6) — Silas Mason 12 Khalid Hinds 9, Isaiah Moore 8, Nick McMullen 8, Jordan Williams 5, Xavien Whitney–Taylor 1.
Mount Tabor 27 19 8 10 — 64
Smith 6 2 5 9 — 22
Mount Tabor (7-2 Piedmont Triad 3-A, 13-10 overall) — Lilly Pereira 18, Maddie Moore 11, Ciara Wright 9, Lexi Brooks 8, Brook Fowler 8, Riley Walters 4, Arri Bohannon 2, Chloe Patterson 2, J.J. Penn 2.
Smith (0-9, 0-22) — Jendayi Davis 6, Shay Damon 4, Sha’Mya Simmons 4, Abby Newman 3, Aniya Sturdivant 3, Lily Green 2.