By David Rogers. January 12, 2018. MORGANTON, NC — Things didn’t start out so well for Watauga men’s basketball Friday night at Morganton-Freedom, but after falling behind 21-13 by the end of the first quarter, the gritty Pioneers held their own against an opportunistic Patriot five before losing, 66-50.
Patriot junior Fletcher Abee exploded for a game-high 24 points, including 12-of-14 shooting from the foul line. And given the disparity in fouls called (21 against Watauga, 9 against Freedom), those points from the charity stripe proved significant.
Pioneer guard Alex Marinakis helped keep the Pioneers close with a team-high 22 points, including six three-pointers. He fouled out with under two minutes to play.
Also in double figures for Watauga was senior guard/forward Hayes Henderson, who also fouled out late in the game but not before being credited with 11 points on the night.
Also impressive for the Patriots was Aiden Pearson, who used bookend strong performances in the first and fourth quarters to help power the hosts’ winning differential. Pearson poured in 16 on the night, five in the first period and seven in the final stanza.
But it was Abee who seemed to have Watauga’s number. Seemingly every time the Pioneers would start to close the gap, Abee responded with a play to change momentum. He had four 3-pointers on the night.
At 14-1 overall and 5-1 in Northwestern Conference play, Freedom is ranked 33rd in North Carolina, 10th at the 3A level, according to MaxPreps.com.
Watauga leaves Morganton with a 7-5 overall mark, but just 1-4 in conference after bigger losses to Freedom and Hickory to go with nailbiter losses to McDowell and Alexander Central.