With two of the country’s top 20 (MaxPreps) basketball teams meeting in Tuesday night’s championship game, 16th-ranked Mountain Brook (Ala.) took down No. 19 North Mecklenburg (N.C.) by a 77-66 count.
The 2019 version of this prestigious holiday event certainly ended in style.
“We looked last night that no one had made it the final from Alabama, so we wanted to bring it home,’’ said winning coach Bucky McMillan. ”You can’t take things for granted ... you don’t know if you’ll ever get back into the tournament or get back to the final, so it’s great for this group in particular.
“The hospitality of everybody here and to see a crowd up here in Bristol like this on New Year’s Eve, that’s awesome. In Birmingham, Alabama, if there’s a tournament going on, I mean, it’s a ghost town right now.”
The crowd was certainly treated to an outstanding final that turned in Mountain Brook’s favor over the game’s final 10 minutes.
North Mecklenburg (12-1) led 54-48 with just under three minutes left in the third quarter when the Spartans (18-1) made their move.
Behind the bold play of slashing Holt Bashinsky and fellow 6-foot-5 senior Colby Jones, Mountain Brook turned in a quick 9-1 spurt to gain a 57-55 advantage with 1:01 on the third-quarter clock, a lead it would not surrender.
It was at this point that 6-foot-nothing senior guard Edward Reed suddenly took over, scoring on an aggressive drive before swishing a pair of open 3-pointers from the corner, providing Mountain Brook with a sudden 65-57 advantage that basically carried the Spartans home.
Reed finished with 17 points, making 3 of 4 shots from beyond the arc, to back the sublime 27-point outing of the gifted Jones.
“Reed’s a good player who can hit shots, but he’s basically a defensive bulldog for us,” McMillan said. “I don’t know if he’d scored in double figures all year.
“He’s not afraid of the moment — I don’t know sometimes if he knows the moment’s there, meaning it doesn’t bother him. But he was sure big.”
As was Bashinsky, who scored 15 points, and Jones, a 205-pound Xavier signee and the tournament MVP who hit 10 of 17 shots from the floor while grabbing 13 rebounds.
“Colby’s such a great player and he’s gotten so much better,” McMillan said. “He’s a great ball-handler and shooter ... he’s strong. What a lot of people don’t know is he’s a 4.0 student and an incredible person. Just a dream to coach.”
Trayden Williams had 23 points and fellow senior Tristan Maxwell 22 for the Vikings, who motor on back to Huntersville with heads held high.
“We were up there like 47-40, or maybe it was 37-30, and we had a couple chances to get it up to 10, but they did a great job of executing and were able to stay in it,” said North Meck coach Duane Lewis. “And then we sucked in too far and allowed them to hit some big 3s while we had empty possessions.
“But it was a really great game tonight between two great teams.”