By David Rogers. January 26, 2018. MARION, NC — Based on early season performances, the McDowell High School men’s basketball team was supposed to win this home game vs. visiting Watauga, and they did. But they almost didn’t.
COVER IMAGE: Power forward Alex McConnell floats one to the basket. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
Led by senior power forward Travis Corpening’s team-high 22 points, McDowell featured a balanced offensive attack that saw four Titans in double figures en route to a nervous, 74-71 win over the Pioneers. Kevin Silver (16), Antoine Lindsey (14) and Skylar McKinney (11) completed the quartet of inside and outside scoring threats for McDowell
Senior Pioneer guard Bryant Greene came out of sick bay with a vengeance Friday night, shooting a game-high 26 points, including 15 in the second quarter that propelled Watauga to a tenuous, but optimistic 39-34 lead at intermission.
But Silver and McKinney combined for 14 points in the third quarter as the Titans regrouped to outscore the Pioneers 21-16 in the period to even things up going into the final stanza.
Watauga led 60-58 on senior guard Sam Crabbe’s pop shot early in the fourth quarter, but the Titans went on a 7-0 run to take a 65-60 lead and the Pioneers could never quite catch up.
We saw an ending coming to this story that we didn’t like and we let it get inside our heads.
This back-and-forth contest between Northwestern Conference rivals featured 12 lead changes and nine ties.
“We made some mental mistakes late in the game,” Pioneer head coach Rob Sanders conceded to reporters afterwards. We stressed that we could not have turnovers or shotless possessions, but early on we got a little careless with the ball. Then late in the game, we got too quick with it.
“We saw an ending coming to this story that we didn’t like,” Sanders explained, “and we let it get inside our heads.”
Sanders hinted that his charges starting rushing things with under three minutes to go and trailing by as many as six points, taking the first shot that became available, whether it was a good one or not.
“We keep stressing (the concept) of ‘made or miss’,” observed Sanders. “If you miss, then our opponents have the ball back and that is what we didn’t want. We want to work for the high percentage shot and work from the inside out. We just got away from it.”
Greene has been battling the flu this week, seeing limited minutes on Tuesday in the team’s convincing win over Alexander Central and not playing at all in the nailbiter, overtime win vs. West Caldwell on Wednesday. Although he told Blowing Rock News beforehand that he was not 100% and not even sure he was going to play against McDowell, he showed few signs of infirmity with his on-court performance, even playing the vast majority of available minutes. He was 8-of-9 from the charity stripe.
Senior power forward Alex McConnell joined Greene in the double figures column, punching through the Titan defense in the paint for 17 points.
With the tightened schedule because of early season snow days, Watauga plays again on Saturday, hosting what is expected to be a very athletic St. Stephens five. Sanders warned reporters not to form their expectations based on St. Stephens’ 2-7 conference record.
“They are always athletic and a difficult out,” he noted.
- 26 — Bryant Greene
- 17 — Alex McConnell
- 11 — Sam Crabbe
- 6 — Alex Marinakis
- 4 — Jaidon Bond
- 3 — Jonathan McClannon
- 2 — Hayes Henderson
- 22 — Travis Corpening
- 16 — Kevin Silver
- 14 — Antoine Lindsey
- 11 — Skylar McKinney
- 4 — Caden Davis
- 4 — Dylan McRary
- 4 — JC Olivo