Withers missed an abundance of time earlier in this year’s Arby’s because of foul trouble.
But in Saturday night’s championship contest, the sleek, 6-foot-9 junior rarely missed in leading North Mecklenburg (13-1) to its second Arby’s title in four years. Withers scored 20 points in the Vikings’ 62-53 victory over Columbus, Miss.
With range up to 28 feet, Withers knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter. The first tied the contest at 12 and the second gave North Mecklenburg a 17-14 lead at the end of the first.
“I just came out aggressive from the tip,” Withers said. “I showed off a little bit of my arsenal I guess.
“It’s something that I do.”
Withers knocked down more long-range 3s later in the contest. The last stopped a Columbia 12-3 run that erased a nine-point Vikings lead and put North Mecklenburg back ahead, 35-32.
“That’s why Jae’Lyn has all the high majors after him,” said North Mecklenburg coach Duane Lewis. “He’s a stretch four, small four that can really stroke it. He got to show it off tonight. I was happy for him that he got to finish on a high note.”
A 3-pointer by R.J. DeLoach gave Columbia its last lead at 40-38 late in the third quarter. The Vikings answered with a Jabril Griffin and after forcing a turnover, Tristan Maxwell sank a turnaround 30-footer at the end of the stanza for a 43-40 Vikings lead.
“I wasn’t really thinking about anything,” Maxwell said. “I just needed to get a shot off. After I made it, it did feel like a big moment.”
Another Maxwell 3 came at the start of the fourth quarter to forge a six-point advantage. The margin swelled to 10 on a Withers basket and a three-point play from defensive-minded Yancey Hairston.
The talented football defensive end later added another three-point play that virtually sealed the title after Columbus had trimmed the deficit to just four points.
“Yancey is one of my favorite kids to coach,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t require the ball. We had to tell him to shoot tonight and he made one of the biggest plays for us.”
Hairston is also tasked with flanking the opposition’s best player. He started by hounding Gate City guard Mac McClung in the opener and finished by hounding Columbia power forward Robert Woodard in the title contest.
Woodard, a Mississippi State signee, capped his all-tournament performance with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Denijay Harris added 15 points, six rebounds and three assists and was also an all-tournament selection for the Falcons.
Maxwell finished with 21 points and five assists and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“It feels great,” he said. “I’m glad we came in here and got the win. We’ll probably get a little more exposure for our team and Charlotte.”
Freshman Chris Ford added eight points, nine rebounds and four assists and made the all-tournament team. Withers’ log in the championship game also secured an all-tourney spot.
Bearden (18-1) won a Knoxville battle over Webb to earn the third-place trophy, 49-45.
The Bulldogs’ junior backcourt of Ques Glover and Trent Stephney combined for 41 of their points.
Glover finished with a game-high 23 points and had five rebounds. Stephney added 18 points and four rebounds. Both made the all-tournament team.
Webb (14-3) got 16 points and five rebounds from Myles Rasnick and 13 points from Chase Ridenour. They also made the all-tournament team.