By David Rogers. January 10, 2020. BOONE, NC — Surprise. Surprise. Surprise. Visiting Hickory-St. Stephens men’s basketball may have carried a 4-11 overall record into Lentz-Eggers Gym Friday night, but they gave host Watauga all they could handle. The Pioneers prevailed in the end, 67-59, but it was closer than the score indicated.
COVER IMAGE: Anderson Castle (10) fights through traffic to score a contested layup. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News. CLICK TO ENLARGE
The Indians’ Will Rose gave Watauga fits in the paint, scoring a game-high 27 points and the only St. Stephens player in double figures, scoring.
Meanwhile the Pioneers’ senior point guard Anderson Castle was fierce inside, attacking the rim, finishing the night with a team-high 24 hard-fought points. Long distance sharpshooter Jake Sears added 12 on a quartet of three-pointers coming off the bench, while starting forward Bennett Ricker also earned double figures, with 11 points. Andrew Freeman and Jackson Earnhardt contributed 8 points apiece.
The two Northwestern Conference adversaries were deadlocked through much of the first quarter until Sears came off the bench to bury consecutive 3-pointers to provide the Pioneers with a degree of separation. Including a “three” by Earnhardt and strong inside play by Castle, Watauga finished the first period with a 21-14 lead, a 7-point lead they maintained going into halftime (34-27).
In the third period, Watauga led by as many as 10 points, but Rose would not let the Indians retreat quietly into the night. With 5:15 to go in the game, St. Stephens took its first lead since the first quarter, 56-55.
Sears again helped jumpstart a moribund Watauga offense, hitting a 3-pointer to give Watauga a 3-point advantage at 60-57. Freeman followed with a three, while Castle punched in a couple down the lane and drawing fouls. The football QB who was the Northwestern Conference’s 2019 Player of the Year proved that he also has dead-aim from the basketball foul line. He was 6-for-6 from the charity stripe on this night.
Watauga continues Northwestern Conference play with a challenging road schedule next week, traveling to Hickory on Tuesday to face the Red Tornadoes (10-3 overall, 1-2 NWC), then back down the mountain to Morganton on Friday, to face Freedom (13-1 overall, 2-1 NWC).
- SST – Will Rose (27)
- WHS – Anderson Castle (24)
- WHS – Jake Sears (12)
- WHS – Bennett Ricker (11)
- WHS – Andrew Freeman (8)
- WHS – Jackson Earnhardt (8)
- SST – Mikey Daaboul (8)
- SST – Zane McPherson (8)
- SST – Dayton Anderson (6)
- SST – Charlie Woy (5)
- WHS – Holden Perry (2)
- SST – Smith Wall (2)
- SST – Randall Lyons (2)
- SST – Mason Buff (1)