By David Rogers. January 29, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — A circus-like atmosphere may well be in the cards for Lentz-Eggers Gym at Watauga High School tonight for the Watauga Middle Schools Basketball Championships — and Blowing Rock has a lot at stake.
COVER IMAGE: Blowing Rock boys playmaker Wyatt Kohout and girls principal Kate Sears look to lead their teams to the county championship tonight, against Parkway and Cove Creek, respectively. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News, respectively.
For the second year in a row, the Rockets are represented in both the boys’ and the girls’ championship finals: girls tipoff at 5:30 pm, boys immediately following . But this year, there may be even higher expectations — after both Blowng Rock teams LOST in the finals last year.
GIRLS in a 5:30 pm grudge match
Blowing Rock’s girls lost a squeaker to Parkway a year ago, 31-26, as the Patriots double- and triple-teamed the Rockets’ best scoring threat, then 6th grader Kate Sears (CLICK HERE for that Blowing Rock News story). Fast forward to 2019-20 and Sears has grown a few inches, gotten even more adept in her skills. Meanwhile, her supporting cast is also a year older and head coach Martha Trimble groomed even more scoring threats for opponents to contend with in Katie Durham, E.T. Tilley, and Mattie Durham.
Cove Creek is this year’s championship opponent for Blowing Rock in the girls division. The Raiders and Rockets split the home-and-home series in the 2019-20 regular season, Cove Creek winning 30-20 on Blowing Rock’s home court, November 21st, and Blowing Rock returning the favor by dominating their hosts, 34-20, on January 9th, in Vilas (CLICK HERE for Blowing Rock News’ rematch story).
To get past the Raiders and win the championship, Blowing Rock will have to find ways to overcome the large physical presence of Cove Creek players like Bailey Main, as well as prolific scorers like Laney Shook and Evie Robbins.
Can the Blowing Rock BOYS protect their unblemished record?
On “Senior Night” at Blowing Rock’s gym, the “It’s Showtime!” Rockets had to pull off a near miracle to nail down a regular season sweep of Parkway’s Patriots. After jumping out to a big first-quarter lead, Blowing Rock buckled in the second quarter and only led by a bucket at intermission when Parkway’s 6th-grade sparkplug, Cade Keller, hit nothing but net from long range at the first-half buzzer. In the second half, the lead changed hands seven times as the Patriots fought tooth and nail to prove they could stay with the undefeated Rockets. Blowing Rock pulled off the win, 44-37, but there were a few anxious moments for the Rockets’ faithful packing the grandstands (CLICK HERE for the story of the last meeting).
Parkway gets a third opportunity to upset the undefeated Blowing Rock boys in Thursday night’s championship finale. After the Rockets pummeled the Patriots 45-13 on December 5th, Parkway will be looking to avenge that home court embarrassment and prove that the January 16th near-miss was not a fluke.
A lot of the same 2020 Rockets were on the floor last year when Hardin Park dominated Blowing Rock in the 2019 final, 48-13 (CLICK HERE for the Blowing Rock News coverage from last year). They are a year older, so more mature as players — and each of them has grown a few or more inches in the interim. The Blowing Rock roster includes three 8th graders, starters Wyatt Kohout, Morgan Henry and 6th man Ayden Knight who are all over 6-feet tall, athletic, and very fit. Their starters also feature playmaking guards Grant Troyer, Bennett Brown, and Sam Nixon.
As pointed out in the last Blowing Rock News article covering this year’s semifinal matchup vs. Cove Creek on Monday, one of the team’s strengths is its bench: Blowing Rock players who have seen a lot of court time this year during blowout wins. That will be especially important should any of the frontliners falter, get injured or get into foul trouble.
Parkway counters with a trio of young, ever-present guards grown more experienced as the season has gone on. Maddox Greene and Jameson Hodges are the older backcourt duo who are not averse to driving the lane or shooting from the outside. The season’s real surprise has been the emergence of Cade Keller, just a 6th grader, but playing bigger than his years or stature.
Watauga Middle School Championship Games at Lentz-Eggers Gym
- 5:30 pm — GIRLS: #1 Cove Creek vs. #2 Blowing Rock
- 6:30 pm — BOYS: #1 Blowing Rock vs. #2 Parkway