By David Rogers. January 3, 2018. BOONE, NC — If we are learning anything about the 2017-18 edition of Watauga’s men’s basketball team it is to never count them out.
COVER IMAGE: Senior guard Alex Marinakis (11) swoops down the lane for a layup. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Down by 22 points midway through the second quarter on Wednesday night at Lentz-Eggers Gym, it looked like visiting McDowell had the Pioneers “in the bag.”
“There are some players,” noted Watauga head coach Rob Sanders later, “who, when things aren’t looking so good, will put the team on their shoulders and carry them. Bryant Greene is one of them.”
Sparked by Greene’s six second period points and strong inside play by power forward Alex McConnell, the Pioneers rallied to close the gap to just 14 by intermission — and senior guard Alex Marinakis’ nine points in the second period alone provided much of the fuel for the Pioneers’ comeback performance.
Watauga’s Greene, McConnell and Marinakis, all seniors, sustained the scoring and defensive momentum in the third period, closing to within just two points after three quarters were in the books, then early in the final period had scrambled all the way back to take a 66-65 lead. They twice expanded the advantage to five points (70-65 and 75-70) before the Titans’ rangy, 6-2 senior guard Skylar McKinney proved the difference maker with 10 points in the final period alone to bring the visitors back.
McDowell’s senior guard Antoine Lindsey may only be 5-8, be his torrid offensive pace (15 points) just in the second period proved to be the Pioneers undoing early on in this game. He finished the game with a team-high 25 points, joined by four other players in double figures, including McKinney’s 17, Kevin Silver’s 15, Dylen McCrary’s 12, and Travis Corpening’s 10.
Greene of Watauga finished with a game-high 26, while Marinakis recorded 19 on the night and McConnell poured in 18.
At 3-0 in Northwestern Conference play, McDowell is tied atop the leaderboard with Alexander Central for an early first place in league standings. Watauga, which lost a 64-62 heartbreaker to Alexander Central in Taylorsville on December 19th, is now 1-2 in the NWC standings, tied for fifth with South Caldwell. Watauga is 7-3 overall.
The Pioneers return to Lentz Eggers Gym on Friday to host St. Stephens, whose 0-3 conference record may be misleading since their league losses have been to conference leaders Alexander Central, McDowell, and the always strong Morganton-Freedom. The Indians’ 6-6 overall record includes non-conference wins over Bunker Hill, Bandys, Fred T. Foard, West Iredell, South Caldwell (neutral tournament), and Maiden.