By David Rogers. January 27, 2020. BOONE, NC — With just over 19 seconds to play in Tuesday night’s final semifinal in the Watauga middle school boys championship tourney, #2 seeded Parkway and #3 seeded Hardin Park were tied, 31-31. Parkway sank a couple of free throws to put the Patriots in the lead, 33-31, but Hardin Park got the ball back with plenty of time to get down the court and potentially tie the game, if not win.
COVER IMAGE: A Hardin Park (in red) and Parkway players fight for a loose ball in the first half of Tuesday semifinal nightcap. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
After an Eagle turnover, Parkway’s Maddox Greene ended up with the ball, dribbled the baseline and the right side perimeter to run out the clock to seal Parkway’s 33-31 victory — and collect the Patriots’ ticket to the championship game on Thursday against Blowing Rock.
The championship game on Thursday against Blowing Rock is shaping up to be a real fun and exciting challenge.
Without question, Hardin Park played “tough” against Parkway, but after falling behind early in the first half the Eagles’ rally fell short. That’s not surprising in that they were playing against a trio of Energizer bunnies.
Parkway’s guard tandem of Maddox Greene (8 points), Jameson Hodges (9), and 6th-grade phenom Cade Keller (10) scored 82% of the Patriots offensive production. Defensively one or the other of them seemed ever-present. Patriot big man Zachary Parsons added four points and Jackson Pryor two to account for the balance of the higher-seeded team’s scoring.
Hardin Park’s Jake Henderson posted a team-high nine points. Forward Nic Aparicio was close behind with eight. The balance of the Eagles scoring included three points each by Christian Santiago, Heath Rowan, Matthew Habich, and Josiah Railey.
Parkway’s mostly diminutive guards accounted for 11 of the Patriots’ 13 first-quarter points as the boys from Boone’s east side took a 13-9 lead. Both teams clamped down defensively in the second period, with Parkway “winning” it 4-3 to hold a 17-12 advantage at intermission.
Led by “threes” at the hands of Heath Rowan and Matthew Habich, with deuces put up by Aparicio and Railey, Hardin Park outpointed Parkway 10-7 in the third period to cut their deficit to just two points, 24-22, with only one quarter left to play.
We love the competition and the respect that they showed us.
Although Parkway threatened to pull away, Hardin Park’s Santiago, Henderson, and Aparicio had other ideas, several times tying the game, including the final knot at 31-31 with 19 seconds to play.
Greene was only 6-of-12 (50%) from the free-throw line in the second half, but Keller hit a perfect 2-of-2 at the charity stripe in the final stanza — two points that meant the difference between victory and sending the game into overtime had it ended in a draw.
After Parkway had secured the win, Blowing Rock News caught up the Patriots’ head coach, Grady McKinney, to get his thoughts on the nailbiter win.
“We have been in close games all year, it seems,” observed McKinney. “It doesn’t matter what team we play, the games have been hard-fought wins.
The opportunity for a third game against Blowing Rock in a championship game has been a real motivator for us in these early rounds.
“Hardin Park gave us close games earlier in the regular season,” McKinney continued. “We love the competition and the respect that they showed us. We’ve won all three vs. Hardin Park this year, but they have been fun, well-played and competitive games. The only team we lost to this year has been Blowing Rock, twice.”
Proving a nice segue into the next series of questions, the conversation moved to the looming rematch on Thursday night in the final.
“Yes, we do have rematch,” said McKinney. “We have been talking about (the possibility of playing Blowing Rock in the final). We never look past our next opponent, but the opportunity for getting a third game against the Rockets has been a motivator.”
In the last outing, Parkway nearly spoiled Blowing Rock’s “Senior Night” (celebrating all of the graduating 8th graders). While the Rockets dumped the Patriots 45-13 in their first meeting on December 5th, Parkway nearly returned the favor on January 16th. They competed toe-to-toe with the eventual regular season champs, the lead changing hands seven times in the second half.
“We want to compete with (Blowing Rock) like we did the last time we played them,” said McKinney. “A lot of our guys play on travel teams with some of the Blowing Rock kids, so this is shaping up to be a really fun and exciting game.”
- PKY — Cade Keller (10)
- PKY — Jameson Hodges (9)
- HP — Jake Henderson (9)
- PKY — Maddox Greene (8)
- HP — Nic Aparicio (8)
- PKY — Zachary Parsons (4)
- HP — Christian Santiago (3)
- HP — Heath Rowan (3)
- HP — Matthew Habich (3)
- HP — Josiah Railey (3)
- PKY — Jackson Pryor (2)
BOYS SEMIFINAL SCORES
- #2 Parkway 33, #3 Hardin Park 31
- #1 Blowing Rock 37, #5 Cove Creek 11