By Taylor Welsh. December 20, 2017. BOONE, NC — During Watauga’s bout Wednesday night, it didn’t take long to discover the Pioneers’ game plan: turn up the pressure on Wilkes Central.
All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
With a total of 15 steals—five coming from senior point guard Maddisen Robinson—Watauga not only dominated on defense, but they translated each takeaway into points on the other side of the court. This consistent extra effort helped the Lady Pioneers literally run away with the game coming out of halftime, fashioning a 10-1 run and defeating Wilkes Central 58-43.
“Our defense gets our offense going,” Watauga head coach Laura Barry admitted to Blowing Rock News after the game. “We weren’t always perfect tonight, but we’ve been talking about how when you work hard you make up for those mistakes and we covered our mistakes really well against a good team tonight.”
Watauga’s energetic defense limited the Eagles to being one dimensional: forcing the team to dish the ball to their 6-foot-3 freshman center Malaya Cowles practically every time on offense.
Though the big, athletic freshman finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, the Pioneers out-rebounded Wilkes Centra, 36 to 25, and capitalized on enough turnovers to limit the Eagles’ scoring to no more than 11 points in each of the first three quarters.
But it wasn’t just Watauga’s stout defense that led the team to yet another victory,but a combination of the team’s high basketball IQ and arguably the most important aspect of the hardwood game, execution.
“These girls are smart on and off the court, so when we teach them things in practice, not only do we explain why but they really are engaged and want to know why as well,” Barry nted. “That IQ also comes from the experience and leadership our starters have from playing last year.”
The Pioneers only led by one point heading into the second stanza, led by sophomore guard Rebekah Farthing’s 8-point first quarter. But Watauga got into their defensive groove come the second quarter, forcing turnovers in the Eagles’ first four offensive possessions and exploding offensively for an 8-2 run that established a 20-13 lead.
Constant pressure in the second quarter served well for the Pioneers as they allowed the Eagles just nine points while scoring 19 of their own, giving the home team a 31-17 advantage as the teams headed into the locker rooms at halftime.
After intermission, Watauga kept putting the pressure on Wilkes Central, starting with a steal from Robinson that turned into a fast break. It evolved as a 3-point play after Robinson was fouled hard on a layup that found the bottom of the net.
Seconds later, Robinson stole the ball again, pushing the Pioneer lead to 19 points early in the third quarter and, for all intents and purposes, putting the game on ice.
Farthing led Watauga with 18 points, eight rebounds and three steals followed by Brooke Byrd who finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, two steals and an assist.
Madie Darner also chalked 11 points Wednesday night along with six rebounds and an assist.
Cailey Haas scored four of her eight points in the second half to help the Pioneers seal the game and added two assists and two steals. Teammate Robinson finished with five points, four rebounds, seven assists, five steals and a block. Parris Bolick scored three points and grabbed six rebounds along with two steals, a block and an assist. Molly Ward scored a single bucket and added a block.
The Watauga Pioneers will play in the Ashe Christmas Tournament Dec. 28. Their opponent is to be determined on a future date.
Edited by David Rogers