Pioneer women open conference play with 52-40 win over South Caldwell

Pioneer women open conference play with 52-40 win over South Caldwell
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REUNITED: Several of the now graduates from last year’s winning Watauga women’s basketball team were in Lentz Eggers Gym Friday night, here joining some of their former teammates and members of the current team for a winsome photo op during a break in the men’s game action.

By Taylor Welsh. December 15, 2017. BOONE, NC — Coming into the first conference game of the season against South Caldwell, Watauga sophomore guard Rebekah Farthing said she knew Friday night was going to be a battle. But after coming just one rebound shy of a double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds along with a pair of assists, Farthing and the Lady Pioneers kept the Spartans at bay, defeating South Caldwell 52-40. 

COVER IMAGE: Blowing Rock’s Paige Bolick came off the bench for Watauga, attacking the basket. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.

“We started really strong on offense and defense tonight and really tried to push and execute,” Farthing said after the game. 

The Lady Pioneers have won their past four games after starting their 2017-18 campaign 0-2, averaging 52 points per game while conceding just 44 points on average, a testament that Watauga’s sophomore leader said can take this team a long way as they progress through the season. 

Farthing was a little under the weather, but didn’t show it pouring in a team-high 15 points on the night.

“This is a very talented team,” Farthing said. “We all enjoy playing alongside one another and this could be a special year for us.” 

The two Northwestern Conference adversaries struggled to gain any separation early in the game, the first quarter ending with the Pioneers holding just a slim, 12-10 advantage. Notable, however, was the play of Watauga power forward Parris Bolick, who seemed to play with a chip on her shoulder.

Bolick’s strong moves to the basket from inside the paint drew two fouls from South Caldwell’s senior point guard Mackenzie Starnes in just the first minute of the game.  While Bolick did not score until the fourth quarter, forcing Starnes — the Spartans’ leading scorer — to the bench in foul trouble so early in the first stanza and for much of the first half had a decisive impact on at least the game’s momentum, if not the final outcome.

Junior point guard came off the bench and an instant impact, her five points in the second period helping spark the Pioneers’ offensive run.

Another of Watauga’s seasoned seniors also inspired the Lady Pioneers in the first half.  Following Starnes’ exit, Watauga shooting guard Madie Darner poached two quick steals on consecutive South Caldwell possessions and made a contested 3-pointer which helped the Lady Pioneers take an 12-10 edge over the Spartans to end the first quarter. 

Once Watauga got a taste of the lead heading into the second quarter, they never turned back. Using an aggressive offensive attacking scheme and constantly pressuring the Spartans on defense, Watauga went on a 9-3 run to start the second period.  Freshman power forward Molly Ward dominated the boards during the run. 

“In practice we have worked on pressuring the ball, so getting those open looks we got tonight were huge for us in being able to beat a good team like South Caldwell,” Farthing said. “We work hard in practice and that extra effort is showing early on this season.” 

Madie Darner (30) scored seven of her evening’s 11 points in the first period. With Farthing’s four, the dynamic guard duo accounted for 11 of the Pioneers’ 12 first quarter points.

While starters Farthing and Darner led Watauga’s scoring effort with 15 and 11 points, respectively, the Pioneers saw strong contributions from the bench, including Ward, as well as junior point guard Cailey Haas.

Still in the second period, Haas grabbed a defensive rebound, then went coast-to-coast, combining on a give-and-go with another teammate. She eventually finished with a layup while getting fouled.  Her success at the charity stripe gave Watauga a 23-15 lead with 1:01 to go in the first half. 

And as if Watauga didn’t have enough momentum heading into halftime, the Lady Pioneers capitalized on another South Caldwell turnover with only seconds remaining. As the clock began to tick, shooting guard Brook Byrd heaved a fading 3-pointer.  The shot arched high in the air and fell through he hoop right as the buzzer sounded, enabling the Pioneers to trot into the locker room with an 11-point, 26-15 lead at half. 

Brooke Byrd matched Haas’ 5 points in the second period, the Watauga guards recording 10 of the home side’s 14 points in the second period to help the Pioneers pull away.

Despite making a hattrick of 3-pointers in the second half, Starnes and the Spartans could not keep up with the runaway Lady Pioneers as it seemed the home team had an answer to everything Friday night. 

Just like that, South Caldwell found themselves in a 43-30 hole with only five minutes remaining in the game thanks to a rejuvenated, high-pressuring defensive stand by Watauga, along with Bolick’s seven points in the fourth quarter to lead the Pioneers’ to a 52-40 victory. 

Starting point guard Maddisen Robinsen (15) only scored three points on the night, but her ball distribution keyed much of Watauga’s offensive attack.

Bolick finished with seven points, six rebounds, two steals and an assist. Watauga’s Darner scored 11 points Friday night along with a trio of rebounds. Teammates Byrd and Haas each ended with seven points respectively. 

The Lady Pioneers will travel to Taylorsville to take on Alexander Central Dec. 19. 

Edited by David Rogers.

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