By David Rogers. February 8, 2019. HICKORY, NC — When one thing doesn’t work, try another — or maybe even two or three.
COVER IMAGE: Chelsi Hodges (40) finds the basket for Watauga. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
With five players on her roster standing 5-11 or taller, including two that tower 6-4, Hickory women’s basketball head coach Barbara Helms knew she had an advantage to exploit in Friday’s regular season revenge match against visiting Watauga. Just for good measure, she added another wrinkle: a full court press for almost the entire game at David Craft Gym.
Junior center Shelby Darden (6-4) poured in 18 points from inside the paint while sophomore small forward Finley Lefevers (5-10) added a dozen, including one 3-pointer, to lead Hickory. Sophomore Kellen Morin (6-4), who did not play in the Red Tornadoes’ 55-46 loss to the Pioneers in Boone on January 15th, added only three points, but the athletic forward was a presence under basket in rebounding, as well as helping “wall off” the Pioneers.
Even Watauga’s long-ball sharpshooters seemed reluctant to shoot over the Hickory giants, sometimes passing up two or three seemingly open opportunities before then driving the ball inside to a turnover, either a steal by one of the Red Tornadoes’ quick guards, an errant pass, or simply a mishandled dribble-drive.
The Pioneers managed to get two players in double figures, senor point guard Cailey Haas with 12 points and junior guard/forward Rebekah Farthing with 10. Both were impressive from the foul line, Haas at 5-of-5 and Farthing with 7-of-8.
Approximately 40% of Watauga’s total points came from the free throw line, which reflects the difficulty the Pioneers had in shooting from the field. Three Pioneers, Farthing, Taylor Lipford, and Brelyn Sturgill were able to get a 3-pointer to go (one each).
Helms shared with Blowing Rock News after the game that among the changes that her coaching staff implemented for the rematch contest was a full court press.
“We changed some things up, defensively,” Helms noted. “The main thing was our press and how we were going to play it. I thought it was effective because they got some walks and five-second calls. They seemed hurried, and we were hoping to wear them out a little bit.
“We knew they could shoot three so well,” added the longtime Hickory women’s mentor. If you can get a (player) to spot up and rush a little bit, that was our intent. Early on they got to the rim, but after that we closed that down. For a shootin’ team (like Watauga), if you can affect their legs you may not see it until later, but hopefully later (it will affect them). That’s why we kept pressin’, to try to get to their legs, because they shoot well.”
When Blowing Rock News asked about Shelby Darden’s development, Helms smiled and said, “She is getting heavily recruited. She is almost 6-5. She is long. She can shoot from the outside, and her strength has improved. As she matures out, she’ll be more like a stretch four (). She has matured to the point where she does what she has to do to help us win. She’s not afraid. She’s not questioning (like when she was a freshman). She’ll go to the rim, but is also willing to take the short jump shots. Nobody is going to be able to guard her in those positions. When you are shooting from 10 feet and you are 6-5 tall, that’s hard to stop…She has pretty good speed, too. She’s not as ‘gawky’ as she was as a freshman.”
Hickory is now 8-4 in Northwestern Conference play, 13-6 overall, standing alone in 4th place. Watauga (9-3, 14-7) is tied with McDowell for 2nd in the standings, behind Freedom (12-0, 21-1).
- Cailey Haas — 12 points, including 5-of-5 from the free throw line
- Rebekah Farthing — 10 points, 7-of-8 from the foul line and 1 3-pointer
- Chelsi Hodges — 8 points, five in leading the Pioneers to a 12-8 lead after the first quarter
- Shelby Darden — 18 points
- Finley Lefevers — 12 points
- Mikayla Hill — 9 points