By Silas Albright. February 13, 2018, BOONE, NC — Watauga High School women’s basketball tipped off the first round of the 2018 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference tournament with a 62-32 victory over the Warriors of West Caldwell High School on Tuesday night at Lentz-Eggers gym.
COVER IMAGE: On a fast break, Rebekah Farthing (5) finds a layup opportunity. All photographic images by Bill Barbour for Blowing Rock News. Editing of news and photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
The relentless, fast-paced Pioneer defense that the conference co-champs displayed game in and game out during the regular season worked like a charm on Tuesday. It was a dominating performance that advanced Watauga to the second round of the conference tournament while improving their overall record to a shiny 21-3 on the year.
Senior forward Madie Darner led the way for the top-seeded Pioneers. She racked up 24 points while also contributing to the team’s overall strong defensive effort.
This is a team that you know from the get-go doesn’t care about who gets the credit.
Sophomore Guard Rebekah Farthing added 14 points, senior forward Parris Bolick chipped in 11 and sophomore guard Brooke Boyd finished with eight on the night.
“The biggest thing we talked about downstairs, other than just effort and focus, was sharing the ball,” head coach Laura Barry told reporters afterward. “This is a team that you know from the get-go doesn’t care who gets the credit, or who gets the points, but to move the ball for the best shot.”
Eighth-seeded West Caldwell was paced by senior guard Annie Bean and sophomore guard Layla Patterson, who both finished with 11 points. Sophomore guard Jaleah Battle also tallied 10 points.
The Lady Pioneers leaned on their quickness, hustle and athleticism on both ends of the court on Tuesday night, pressuring the Warriors on every defensive opportunity and then attacking the rim relentlessly on offense. Their hustle and athleticism led to many tipped passes and steals that often translated into easy, fast-break layups at the other end, and effectively took West Caldwell out of their offense.
We forced them to be pretty uncomfortable all night.
“I thought, overall, our defense was pretty good,” Barry noted. “We forced them to be pretty uncomfortable all night and we rebounded the ball much better than Friday night.”
Watauga came out of the gates ready to run, quickly jumping out to a 9-0 advantage midway through the first quarter. West Caldwell would never recover. The Pioneers didn’t allow a field goal until the 58 second mark in the first quarter, when Bean finally got a Warrior layup to go in. Put it together with an earlier point from the charity stripe and it made the score 13-3, which would not change for the remainder of the first period.
By the 5:20 mark in the second quarter, Watauga had effectively stretched their lead out to a comfortable 18-4 and coach Barry activated the full court trap. Like so many other teams, West Caldwell had trouble with the quickness and aggression of the trap and the turnovers began to pile up. The Lady Pioneers took a commanding 28-8 lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks in large part to Darner’s 17 first-half points.
The Warriors were ice cold in the first half, but came out in the third quarter on fire. Bean and Patterson knocked in three, 3-pointers apiece in the third quarter as West Caldwell nearly tripled their score of the entire first half in just the third quarter, a period in which they outscored Watauga 23-19.
They were open looks because of holes in our defense.
West Caldwell may have been on fire on the offensive end, but still couldn’t find a way to slow down the Pioneers and Watauga took a 47-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
Barry was candid in assessing the Pioneers’ third quarter defensive lapse.
“They were open looks,” she admitted. “They were (open) because of holes in our defense that we’ve gotta tighten up. We also could’ve made a lot more layups tonight, so I’m very pleased with the score, adding that in.”
Watauga came out in the fourth quarter ready to put the game away, and that is exactly what they did. The Pioneers held West Caldwell to just a single point in the final eight minutes of play and scored 15 of their own, stretching the advantage to 30 points, 62-32, by the final buzzer.
“I’m very proud of the business-like approach and adjustments that we made since Friday,” observed Barry. “I think we showed up and played a pretty solid 32 minutes.”
Hickory knocked off St. Stephens, 42-32, Tuesday night in another first round game, becoming the Pioneers’ semifinal opponent in the process. The Lady Pioneers will face the Red Tornadoes on Thursday, February 15, as the first semifinal matchup, with tipoff scheduled for 4:00 pm, at Freedom High School in Morganton. The winner will play in the championship game on Friday, February 16, which will also be played at Freedom.
McDowell eliminated South Caldwell, 60-38, to advance to the other semifinal game in Morganton on Thursday. They will take on regular season co-champs and the conference tournament’s #2 seed, Freedom, which was a 66-38 winner over Alexander Central Tuesday night.
- 24– Madie Darner
- 14– Rebekah Farthing
- 11– Parris Bollick
- 8– Brooke Byrd
- 2– Molly Ward
- 2– Alyssa Lopez
- 1– Taylor Lipford
- 11– Layla Patterson
- 11– Annie Bean
- 10– Jeleah Battle