By David Rogers. February 2, 2018. BOONE, NC — In a footrace, if an elite athlete slips and falls face first at the starting line, legs and arms splayed in all directions, she is unlikely to win. Maybe she scrambles up and gets back in the pack, but the energy expended in just catching up is often a death knell for that race’s expectations.
Watauga proved that in basketball early calamity can be overcome as the Lady Pioneers rallied to a 49-43 victory over Hickory Friday night in Lentz-Eggers Gym.
COVER IMAGE: Sophomore guard Brooke Byrd finishes a fast break after a steal with a layup. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
“I think at the start of the game we were a little complacent,” sophomore guard Rebekah Farthing admitted to Blowing Rock News afterwards. “Adding to that, Hickory was pretty motivated. With our success so far this season e have drawn targets on our backs. Every team we play wants to be the one who beats Watauga.”
The Red Tornadoes stunned Watauga’s early complacency by jumping out to a 6-0 lead with barely two minutes ticked off the game clock — and it got worse. With 1:49 left in the first period, the Pioneers were behind 12-4. Although guards Farthing and Cailey Haas combined for seven points in the first quarter to help narrow the gap just a bit, the Pioneers stilled looked at a 6-point deficit as the opening period came to a close with Hickory leading, 14-8.
Credit junior small forward Mikayla Hill for an astonishing 11 of the Red Tornadoes’ first quarter points, almost all coming from strong inside play by the pass-happy Hickory five.
Whatever inspirational speech Watauga head coach Laura Barry offered to the troops during the brief quarter break, the third year Pioneer mentor may want to record and use again. If it was a special blend of Gatorade, she better patent it.
Although the second period of play by both teams may have set that game of basketball back a hundred years because it was far from pretty, the Pioneers rediscovered the pesky defense for which they have developed a reputation. Pioneer senior point guard Maddisen Robinson dropped in six points during the second quarter, with sophomore Brooke Byrd and senior power forward Parris Bolick contributing a pair apiece. But what really stands out as the deal maker is that the Pioneer’s pressing, swarming defense limited Hickory to just three points in the second period. With just 6.1 seconds remaining before intermission, Watauga took its first lead of the game, 18-17, a tenuous advantage they still held at the halftime buzzer.
When a player stands half a foot taller than everyone else on the floor and is naturally athletic in basketball, she has certain obvious advantages. Then again, because she is “obvious”, she may be credited for more than she deserves.
At 6-4, Hickory’s Shelby Darden is hard to miss when almost all of the other players from both teams are listed at 5-10 or shorter. Although certainly a Red Tornadoes’ asset when on the court, Darden’s minutes were quickly limited by foul trouble. To their credit, Watauga’s guards drove the lane and attacked where Darden and other Hickory players were plugging up the middle, drawing fouls. In at least on and perhaps two instances, Darden may have mistakenly been charged with fouls committed by other Red Tornadoes. When you quite literally stick out in the crowd, you get recognized.
As it was, Watauga benefited from Darden’s absence, especially after she fouled out with just under two minutes remaining in the game. Up until that point, the Pioneers mostly led in the back and forth third and fourth quarters, but any lead was tenuous. When called for her final fifth foul, Darden’s frustration was obvious, but as tears welled up in her eyes, she held them back and bit her lip, reflecting the grace and good sportsmanship that she has been taught in the Hickory program.
Hill finished with a game-high 18 points for the Red Tornadoes, followed by Darden’s seven to lead the visitors.
For the Pioneers, Byrd and fellow shooting guard Madi Darner came alive for seven points each in the final period, many of them foul shots as Hickory tried to scramble back in the closing minutes. Byrd led all Watauga scorers with 13, while Farthing was also in double figures with 10 and Robinson recorded nine points.
The Pioneers have now won 17 straight games overall (17-2) and remain unbeaten
in Northwestern Conference play as they head into the final week of the regular season. Because of postponements due to “snow days”, they have three games now scheduled for the week, beginning Monday at Hickory-St Stephens, Tuesday at home vs. Morganton-Freedom, and Friday, Feb. 9 at West Caldwell.
- 18 – Mikayla Hill
- 7 — Shelby Darden
- 6 — Iness Knox
- 5 — Mason Paradine
- 4 — Finley Lafevers
- 2 — Chloe James
- 1 — Kayla Soublet
- 13 — Brooke Byrd
- 10 — Rebekah Farthing
- 9 — Maddisen Robinson
- 7 — Madie Darner
- 6 — Parris Bolick
- 4 — Cailey Haas