By David Rogers. January 23, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — A completely different starting five took to the hardwoods for top-seeded Blowing Rock against the #8 seeded Mabel middle school boys basketball team, but it was still “showtime” — even if the first half score didn’t adequately reflect it. The Rockets eventually defeated Mabel convincingly, 37-20.
COVER IMAGE: Blowing Rock point guard Grant Troyer goes up to score against Mabel in the Watauga Middle School tournament’s first round. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
It was the first round of the Watauga County middle school boys championship tournament, but Rockets head coach Todd Hartley elected to sit his normal frontliners to get more court time for the younger players. Although the traditional reserves’ shots mostly failed to drop in the opening half of play, the Hartley-nurtured transition style of play was clearly evident: come down with a defensive rebound and quickly start the ball back up court with a no-hesitation, outlet pass to the perimeter, then off and running. On the offensive end, work the ball around the perimeter and find the open man, penetrate down the lane and kick the ball out to an open pteammate for a three-pointer. In short, create space and attack space.
Blowing Rock only led by 6-4 at the end of the first quarter and 15-10 at intermission, but even with the Rockets second tier on the court, the Mabel side was clearly outmatched, with several promising, but still young sixth graders among their starting five. It was more than a valiant effort by the visitors from Zionville, and a more even playing field probably benefited the Mabel side for next year as it helped deepen the Blowing Rock roster for this year.
Hartley did have all five of his normal starters on the court in the third period, and they quickly gained more separation from their opponents with a 13-2 quarter-long run. Then Hartley emptied his bench and won the final stanza, 9-8.
Next up for the Rockets’ boys is a semifinal date with #5-seeded Cove Creek on Monday, January 27th, at 6:00 pm, in Lentz-Eggers Gym at Watauga High School. Cove Creek surprised the #4 seed, Valle Crucis, 35-26, to advance to the semifinals. The undefeated Blowing Rock boys will risk their spotless record for the 2019-20 teams against a Cove Creek team the Rockets defeated twice during the regular season: 55-25 on November 21st in Blowing Rock and 49-29 on the road in Vilas on January 9th.
- MAB – Briar Jones (8)
- BR – Andrew Hill (7)
- BR – Fran Miranda (6)
- BR – Bodie Sukow (6)
- BR – Will Kirkland (5)
- BR – Wyatt Kohout (5)
- MAB – Jesse Underwood (4)
- BR – Morgan Henry (2)
- BR – Grant Troyer (2)
- BR – Sam Nixon (2)
- BR – Bennett Brown (2)
- MAB – Levi Lemons (2)
- MAB – Dillon Zaragoza (2)
- MAB – James Merschat (2)
- MAB – Channing Jeffers (2)
- #1 Blowing Rock 37, #8 Mabel 20
- #2 Parkway 31, #7 Bethel 20
- #3 Hardin Park 37, #6 Green Valley 34
- #5 Cove Creek 35, #4 Valle Crucis 26
BOYS SEMIFINAL PAIRINGS: Monday, January 27th
- 6:00 PM at Watauga High School — #1 Blowing Rock vs. #5 Cove Creek
- 7:00 PM at Watauga High School — #2 Parkway vs. #3 Hardin Park