MOCKSVILLE — With fans lined up on the baselines, in the lobby, in the isles and inches from the court, two of the top boys teams in the state – Davie and visiting Mt. Tabor – delivered an exhilarating, emotional, exhausting and altogether brilliant contest.
A sold-out crowd got to see the most thrilling moments that regular-season basketball offers, as well as the most agonizing if you’re the War Eagles, who missed two potential go-ahead shots down the stretch and fell short 68-63 to Tabor.
The Spartans, who are ranked No. 1 in 4-A by NCPreps.com, improved to 15-0. They came in beating people by an average margin of 37.5. The War Eagles, ranked sixth, fell to 12-2, having lost 74-73 to nationally-ranked Olympic on Dec. 15.
“It was a tremendous game,” Tabor coach Andy Muse said. “It was a playoff atmosphere.”
Davie coach Mike Absher remained upbeat after his club gave a mighty effort.
“I think everybody got their money’s worth,” he said.
Tabor controlled the first quarter, outrebounding Davie 12-5 to forge a 22-12 lead. The margin grew to 29-12 early in the second.
The War Eagles were backed in a corner and they came out swinging, outrebounding Tabor in each of the final three quarters and rallying to within one. Davie pulled to 34-28 by halftime.
Caleb Martin took over in the third, scoring 11 of his game-high 20 points in the period. But after Davie climbed to 47-44,
Tabor ended the quarter on a 7-0 run, capped by Lepreece Lynch’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
The fourth was full of twists and turns. Gritty Davie used a 10-0 run to cut Tabor’s lead to 56-54. Cody Martin’s triple made it 61-57. Tabor’s Nate Long came right back with a 3, but Cody’s and-one made it 64-60. Austin Hatfield’s baseline runner brought Davie to 64-62 with 2:15 left.
“We kept coming back,” Absher said. “That speaks highly of our kids. They brought everything they had and it was a one-point game (with 40 seconds left).”
Davie had its chances in a heart-stopping final two minutes. With Tabor ahead 64-62, Caleb’s 3-pointer wouldn’t go. Austin Hatfield was called for a controversial charge. After Cody intercepted Tabor’s alley-oop attempt, Caleb fired a 3 from the right corner. It missed. Caleb attacked the glass with 40 seconds left, drawing a foul and hitting one of two free throws to cut the deficit to 64-63.
Robinson hit both ends of a one-and-one with 36 seconds left, and that finally put Davie away.
Caleb had 20 points and eight rebounds, while Cody had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
“They’re ACC players – period,” Muse said of the Martin twins.
“The frustrating thing was (the deficit) got back to 11 in the second half,” Absher said. “That hurts when you’ve got to keep battling and keep coming back. But we still did and obviously had a chance.
“It should hurt to lose. Absolutely. But this one game won’t define our season. All our goals are still attainable.”
MOUNT TABOR (68) — Robinson 16, Long 15, Lynch 13, Bitting 10, Madigan 9.
DAVIE (63) — Caleb Martin 20, Cody Martin 17, A. Hatfield 12, T. Hatfield 8, tatum 6, Sell, Carney.
Mount Tabor 22 12 20 14 — 68
Davie 12 16 16 19 — 63