By David Rogers. January 27, 2020. BOONE, NC — Maybe it was an inspirational “Come to Jesus” halftime speeches by the coaches or a special concoction of Kool-Aid at intermission, but Charles Dickens would be proud. Instead of a tale of two cities, though, this was a tale of two halves — in which the Blowing Rock girls prevailed, 32-28.
COVER IMAGE: Blowing Rock’s Katie Durham finds herself open underneath the basket in the first half — for two. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
A mostly cold-shooting Blowing Rock team fell behind a mostly hot-shooting Hardin Park five in the first half, allowing the Eagles to record an 18-15 lead at the break when the jampacked grandstands refilled their buckets of popcorn and stocked up on Twizzlers.
The third quarter was the turning point.
Hardin Park’s Julie Matheson drew the defensive coverage assignment on Blowing Rock’s key playmaker, Kate Sears, and she was effective on both ends of the court in the first half. Matheson limited Sears to just four points in the opening stanzas of this semifinal matchup at Lentz-Eggers Gym. To add insult to injury, the Eagles manufactured some space for Matheson to get two open looks from behind the 3-point arc in the second period, and she made good on both of them. Meanwhile, Georgia Parker and Brielynn Myers of Hardin Park were effective underneath, giving the Eagles both rebounding and scoring edges vs. the #2 seeded Rockets.
It is not that Blowing Rock didn’t have open looks in the first half, because they did. It’s just that the ball would clang off the rim or fall well short of the mark. The usual “eagle eye” Rockets had gone missing.
For us, this was definitely a second-half game.
While Sears was mostly quiet in the first two periods, teammate Katie Durham produced six points in the early going and E.T. Tilley accounted for five points to keep the Rockets within reach at the break.
At one point in the second period, the #3-seeded Hardin Park jumped out to a 7-point lead and the Blowing Rock faithful filling the north side grandstands grew restless. Not to fear, however, as Tilley cut into that lead with a successful three-pointer and the Rockets began to claw back.
After the halftime breather, an inspired Blowing Rock five clamped down on the Eagles with a full-court press that proved highly disruptive, creating frequent poaching opportunities for Rocket defenders as well as ball-handling turnovers by the Eagles. Blowing Rock “won” the third quarter, 11-6 to surge ahead going into the fourth and final period of play.
Ahead 28-22 with four minutes remaining in the game, the Rockets’ coaching brain trust put the ball into the hands of their best playmakers. In short, the last half of the final stanza materialized as The Kate Sears and E.T. Tilley Dribbling Clinic, the athletic playmaker Sears moving the ball around and about the court at the top of the key and down the sidelines, daring the Eagles to foul her and put her on the foul line.
Finally, Hardin Park did begin to foul Sears, and she promptly made them pay. On top of five points in the third period that included a three-pointer and 2-for-2 shooting from the charity stripe, Sears added a bucket from underneath and 4-for-4 shooting from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
Yep, we pulled that one out.
Sears finished the game with 15 points swarmed the basket on both ends for some key second-half rebounds. Her Rockets sidekick Katie Durham poured in 10 points, while Tilley (5 points) and Mattie Durham (2) accounted for the rest of the Blowing Rock scoring.
“That third quarter was the turning point,” Hardin Park head coach Andy Eggers admitted to Blowing Rock News afterward. “They did some good things and we needed to do better.”
Blowing Rock head coach Martha Trimble said later that there was a method behind the madness in starting to use up the clock with only a 6-point lead and still four minutes to go.
“We pulled that one out,” smiled Trimble, “but they were picking at that lead, one by one. The intent was not so much to run out the clock in those last four minutes but to avoid turnovers. Because we have so many ball-handlers (i.e., Sears, Tilley and the two Durham siblings), we felt that was the safest option for not turning over the ball, turning over possession.
“For us,” Trimble admitted, “this was definitely a second-half game.”
Asked what adjustments she made at halftime, Trimble laughingly replied, “None. Just talking. We had a little of what I call a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting.”
The halftime speech and the ball-handling strategy to close out the game worked. Now the Blowing Rock girls advance to Thursday’s championship game, slated for 5:30 pm in Lentz-Eggers Gym. against top-seeded Cove Creek.
On November 21, 2019, Blowing Rock lost to the Raiders of Cove Creek, 30-20, in a game that saw Sears exit early with an arm injury. In the regular season rematch, on January 9th at Cove Creek’s home floor, the Rockets won, 34-20. Assuming the Blowing Rock starters, at least, are all free of injury or illness, the Rockets will be favored to win, even though Cove Creek captured the top seeding by going undefeated except for the lone loss to Blowing Rock.
- BR — Kate Sears (15)
- BR — Katie Durham (10)
- HP — Georgia Parker (7)
- HP — Brielynn Myers (7)
- HP — Julie Matheson (6)
- HP — Kate Yoblinski (6)
- BR — E.T. Tilley (5)
- BR — Mattie Durham (2)
- HP — Kaitlyn Darner (2)
GIRLS SEMIFNAL SCORES
- #2 Blowing Rock 32, #3 Hardin Park 28
- #1 Cove Creek 30, #4 Parkeway 11