North Mecklenburg conquers Columbus 62-53 for Arby’s title

Tanner Cook • Updated Dec 30, 2017 at 10:01 PM

BRISTOL —There were two marquee matchups on the final day of the 35th Arby’s Classic: Columbus (Miss.) vs. North Mecklenburg (N.C.) and Robert Woodard vs. super sophomore Tristan Maxwell.

Behind Maxwell, North Mecklenburg emerged victorious on Saturday at Viking Hall — winning 62-53 to claim a second Arby’s title to go with the Vikings’ one from 2014.

Maxwell finished with 21 points and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

“I felt like (Tristan) played well in the tournament, considering his age,” said former NBA great Vernon Maxwell, Tristan’s father. “He was born to hit big shots. He’s been doing that his whole career. I raised him to be tough. I expect that out of him.”

Fast starts for both teams were of the essence, but it was North Mecklenburg that was off to the quicker start in what was looking like a track meet early on. It led 17-14 at the end of the first quarter.

The Vikings were frustrating Woodard by countering with a big man of their own in Jae’Lyn Withers, setting up the one-on-one matchup in the post.

North Mecklenburg led at the half of a game that started out quickly and then slowed due to great defensive efforts on both ends.

The Falcons got back into the game and tied it at 32 early in the third behind Woodard and the other part of the twin towers, Denijay Harris.

R.J. Deloach made a 3-pointer that gave Columbus the lead for the first time since the first quarter at 40-38, but the Vikings would not be silenced as Jarbril Griffin hit a layup to tie the game. Then Maxwell canned a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave back the edge to North Meck at 43-40 as the heavyweight title bout crept into the final quarter of regulation.

The Vikings’ lead swelled to 10 points at the halfway mark of the final stanza came and went. It was do-or-die time for Columbus.

After the Falcons cut the lead to four points (55-51) at the two-minute mark, the Vikings needed an answer and got it when Yancey Hairston converted an up-and-under layup that pushed the lead out to six again.

“It’s always an honor to come to the Arby’s Classic,” said North Mecklenburg coach Duane Lewis. “The entire city is just so supportive and makes the experience worthwhile.”

The clutch free throws down the stretch were key in the win.

Withers finished the game with 20 points for North Mecklenburg.

Woodard had 18 to lead Columbus.

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