Why the Spartans won

Mount Tabor’s defense kept Smith from getting the ball inside, and Coach Andy Muse’s Spartans executed on the 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.”

The big play

Finley Simmons’ lay-in off an inbounds play just before the buzzer gave Mount Tabor the victory.

“Our coach drew it up and he designed the play, so all credit to him for knowing what would happen,” said Simmons 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. ... It was a great feeling, just spectacular!”

Here’s how 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.”

Three things we learned

1. The Piedmont Triad 3-A regular-season title will be decided Friday. 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 dangerous Southwest Guilford team. 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 creates 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. Smith can’t stay down for long. Friday’s game at Parkland is huge, not only for the Golden Eagles 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,” 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.”

Joe Sirera is a staff writer for the Greensboro News & Record

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