By David Rogers. March 11, 2017. BOONE, NC — Watauga County Parks & Recreation director Stephen Poulos may well be the best ringmaster of a 13-ring circus, ever.
COVER IMAGE: Blowing Rock’s Will Kirkland, playing for the High Country Hustle (5th grade boys), gives it everything he has — and drains a 3-pointer (nothing but net!) with less than a minute to go to get his team to within three points.
The Boone Roundball Classic kicked off Friday night and the basketball action was fast and furious on just about EVERY basketball court in Watauga County, including two courts at the high school, all of the county middle schools, and a church or two.
The High Country is host to 133 teams from around the region — that’s an estimated 1,300 players — playing a total of 241 games, including six girls divisions and seven boys divisions, from 4th grade through high school varsity age groups over a two-days and two nights period. And they are all playing at 13 different venues. Thanks to modern web-based technology, Poulos and his legion of volunteers are keeping track of things, real-time.
Blowing Rock News caught the action in two games Friday night, the High Country Hustle that featured a Blowing Rock-based coach in Todd Hartley and at least one Blowing Rock player, Will Kirkland, on the Boys 5th Grade team.
Down 28-15 at halftime, the Hustle clawed their way back in the second half. With under a minute to go, Kirkland drained a 3-pointer from the left side to shrink the deficit to just 32-29, but the Davie (County) “fastbreak” pulled back ahead to win, 34-30, in a game that was played in the Auxiliary Gym at Watauga High School.
A little earlier, at Hardin Park School, Blowing Rock News watched the Mt. Airy Bears dismantle the Mighty Mountaineers-Gold team, 57-41. This was a first round matchup in the 7th Grade Boys Division and although the Mountaineers showed no quit from start to finish, the Bears were able to overcome a multitude of travelling calls and other assorted turnovers by employing a dogged, disruptive full-court press against the High Country’s Mountaineers.
Early round action continues through Saturday, with the last preliminary and championship rounds scheduled for Sunday.