Titans’ Second Half Rally Dooms Pioneers, 60-43

Titans’ Second Half Rally Dooms Pioneers, 60-43
Madie Darner (30) turns to dribble down the base line.

By David Rogers. February 23, 2017. BOONE, NC — All good things must come to an end, eventually, and an inspiring Watauga women’s basketball story closed its final chapter Thursday night at Lentz Eggers Gym. The Titans of West Forsyth (Winston-Salem) leveraged a 15-1 run in the early minutes of the second half to win convincingly, 60-43, in the second round of the North Carolina 4A high school championship tournament.

West Forsyth sophomore guard Callie Scheier is only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, but she loomed large in leading the Titans’ offensive attack against the Pioneers. Scheier poured in 28 points on the night, including a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Junior forward Skyler Curran and yet another sophomore guard each scored 10 points to aid the Titans’ winning effort.

Whereas Scheier’s 12 first quarter points dominated the Titans’ scoring output in the first quarter, Watauga kept the game close in the opening stanza with scoring coming from four different players. Junior guard Madie Darner finished the game with a team-high 17 points and senior forward Alden McClure came off the bench to add 11.

We dug ourselves a hole.

Watauga trailed by only two points, 28-26, as the clock was winding down on the first half, but Scheier found space on the perimeter and launched a buzzer-beating three-pointer seemingly from Blowing Rock’s Main Street to give the Titans a 31-26 stake going into intermission.

Brooke Byrd (1) is forced to shoot off-balance by strong West Forsyth defense.

“Honestly,” admitted Watauga head coach Laura Barry to reporters later, “what I thought about (West Forsyth) coming in, I was very much on edge about how good they were going to be. But as soon as we matched up at the start of the game, I felt very good about it.  I think that run (at the end of the second quarter) gave them a lot of confidence for the second half. I thought we were mentally prepared to play with them in the third quarter, but we had a few lapses…We dug ourselves a hole, and then it becomes tough to execute.

“I’ve never run out of timeouts all year,” Barry noted, “but tonight we had to keep adjusting. Really, you have to credit (West Forsyth) and their coaching. That #10 (Scheier) was really tough.”

Olivia Williamson put the final game of the season into perspective in speaking with Blowing Rock News on the court as the many fans filtered out of the gym.

“Obviously we played better the first half than in the second half,” the senior forward observed.  “We wanted the game a lot more. Of course it is a heartbreaker now, because the season is over.

“It is really amazing how we turned the basketball program around,” Williamson smiled. “It’s really nice to say that we had 19 wins in my senior season, compared to five wins last year. After last year, I never would have thought of making it to the second round of the state tournament.”

I am a little upset, because I think we were better than them.

Senior forward Alden McClure has her eye ont the prize.

Barry shared with reporters that a lot of her comments to the players in the locker room after the game were not about this game, but about the season.

“Of course I could talk a lot about tonight,” Barry said, “and if we were going to play on Saturday, I would. But to minimize what this team accomplished all year is not fair. This has been an unbelievable commitment and investment from these Watauga players…They have worked hard every day. I love them, tremendously. The character of this team is why we were able to do the things we were able to do. Winning that many games (19) isn’t easy, but they rose to the challenge night after night.”

Watauga opened the season losing the first four games, including both sides of a home and away series against Ashe County, as well as early matchups against Alexander Central and Avery County. Ashe County and Alexander Central are 3A level schools, while Avery County is a 1A level small school.  The Lady Pioneers, featuring two freshmen, a sophomore and a trio of juniors to complement a quintet of seniors, bounced back from that streak of opening losses by beating non-conference opponents Wilkes Central and a rematch against Avery County, then stunned the Northwestern Conference by going 14-3 in regular season league play to earn the #2 seed in the conference tournament. Including the team’s thrilling, come-from-behind win in the semifinals vs. Hickory, a game in which the Pioneers were down 27-4 late in the first half before winning 61-56 in overtime, Watauga earned a spot in the conference tournament final before ultimately losing to Morganton’s Freedom in the finale.

Farthing (5) finishes breakaway transition.

One of those featured freshmen in the 2016-17 edition of the Pioneers was guard Rebekah Farthing.  In speaking with Blowing Rock News later, it was evident that she felt Watauga let this second round tilt get away.

“I am a little upset,” Farthing shared, “because I think we were better than them. I know we could have done something more, that just wasn’t there tonight.

“While tonight is upsetting,” added Farthing, “we gave it our all the whole season. To be honest, when we kept losing at the beginning I had no thoughts that we might end up advancing to the second round of the 4A state tournament. But I thought, ‘It’s only up from here. It can only get better.’ This has been amazing to see how far we have come.”

Farthing was candid in reflecting back on what she learned in those first four games, especially as a freshman stepping into the varsity limelight.

I can’t wait to watch the years to come.

“I knew that I had to become a better player,” recalled Farthing, “so I could help my team. It’s not just one person. We all had to take something out of ourselves to make the whole team as a group.”

Anybody else want a piece of this?

Leeann Byrd, mother of freshman varsity player Brooke Byrd, summed up the Watauga fans’ enthusiasm for their Lady Pioneers in 2016-17.

“There are no words of consolation needed,” Mrs. Byrd said. “This season was incredible, especially when you consider that the team had two freshman, Rebekah Farthing and my daughter Brooke. They were not just a part of the season, they were embraced by these girls who are older than they are. To have the integrity and comaraderie that they all have is winning in life, even if they didn’t win this particular game.

“After that 4-loss start,” Byrd concluded, “I had no idea the season would end up this way (in the second round of the state playoffs), but I will tell you this: with coaches like we have in Laura Barry and her assistant, Coach Pryor, and the junior varsity coaches, they have all been amazing. They have really taken these girls and taught them how to play as a team. I can’t wait to watch the years to come.”

The Lady Pioneers finish the season with an overall record of 19-9, 11-3 in conference play.  With the win, West Forsyth (24-5, 10-2) advances to a third round challenge vs. Central Piedmont Conference rival R.J. Reynolds (23-3, 11-1).  This will be the fourth time that the Titans of West Forsyth will face Reynolds this season. After losing to West Forsyth, 55-47 on January 30, Reynolds defeated the Titans 57-48 on February 7th in the regular season, then beat the Titans again in a neutral conference tournament game, 52-47.

SCORING

West Forsyth

  • 28 — Callie Scheier
  • 10 — Amira Williams
  • 10 — Skyler Curran
  • 9 — Halie Chmura
  • 2 — Ashley Melton
  • 1 — Bri Lucero

Watauga

  • 17 — Madie Darner
  • 11 — Alden McClure
  • 4 — Rebekah Farthing
  • 4 — Katherine Stapleton
  • 3 — Karson Hamrick
  • 2 — Olivia Williamson
  • 2 — Brooke Byrd

Other state tournament scores of note:

4A West

  • Mallard Creek 52, Southwest Guilford 45
  • Rocky River 62, Mooresville 52
  • R.J. Reynolds 41, Southeast Guilford 33
  • Northwest Guilford 69, Ronald Reagan 54
  • Dudley 55, T.C. Roberson 38
  • Hough 46, Page 36
  • Ardrey Kell 58, North Mecklenburg 47

4A East

  • Millbrook 57, Holly Springs 47
  • Green Hope 48, Hoggard 46
  • South Central 53, E.A. Laney 46
  • Lumberton 58, Leesville Road 50
  • Hillside 55, Knightdale 48
  • New Hanover 59, Apex 50
  • Heritage 61, E.E. Smith 57
  • Southeast Raleigh 68, East Wake 28

Selected Games from 3A

  • Freedom 62, Southwestern Randolph 18
  • North Iredell 56, Hickory 52

Selected Games from 2A

  • Mountain Heritage 52, East Davidson 44

Selected Games from 1A

  • Cherokee 50, Mitchell 48
  • Avery County 76, Chatham Central 45

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