By David Rogers. January 11, 2019. HICKORY, NC — It was a happy ending to a grueling week of three games on the road. Watauga’s men’s basketball Pioneers will enjoy a weekend of rest after ambushing St. Stephens, 51-45.
COVER IMAGE: Watauga junior guard Jaiden Bond was active Friday night in driving to the basket. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
After an uncharacteristic 4th quarter collapse on Tuesday in losing to McDowell, Watauga squeezed by Ashe County in a Thursday night rivalry game, then used a balanced scoring attack to turn back a taller, more athletic Indians five on Friday night.
There was no hesitation in the Pioneers attack upon collecting a defensive rebound. Whether taken down by sophomore playmaker Blane St. Clair or senior point guard Zach West, the ball was quickly put into transition either with an immediate outlet pass to the wing or simply turned up the middle on the dribble.
West knocked down a team high 12 points, while long distance sharpshooter Jake Sears burned the nets for three, 3-pointers to add nine.
“My legs are tired,” Anderson Castle (5 points) admitted to Blowing Rock News afterward, “but we knew coming into the game that we had to leave it all out there. We knew we have a whole weekend to rest after this game. My legs are tired, but I’ll be fine.
“We knew we could be them,” added the junior guard who doubles at Watauga’s starting quarterback during the football season. “They beat McDowell earlier in the week and we lost to McDowell on Tuesday, but we knew that wasn’t our best game. We learned a lot from the McDowell game and I think that showed tonight during the fourth quarter.”
Asked what they learned from the McDowell game, Castle explained, “Well, we had a lead against McDowell, but in the fourth quarter we started rushing things. Instead of working the clock, we didn’t take care of the ball and we let down on defense. In that fourth quarter, we just didn’t play good basketball. So against Ashe last night, we had to basically do everything opposite of what we did at McDowell, and then carry a lot of those lessons over to this game against St. Stephens.”
Watauga led for most of the first half, they faltered toward the end of the second quarter and went into intermission with a two-point deficit, 25-23. After his Pioneers rallied back in the second half, head coach Rob Sanders noted, “It’s just recognizing things. At halftime we told the guys, ‘Anytime you see two big guys leave the court on a free throw shot and two smaller guys come in, what is coming? They are going to press you.’ We played right into their hands and gave them another quick basket at the end of the half…
“But those are the growing pains, the things we have to learn from,” Sanders added. “We saw tonight some things very similar to last night (at Ashe County), where it got down to crunch time. Our guys picked up their intensity on defense and got stops when they had to get stops — and converted on the other end. We played smart basketball. They understood time and situations, worked the clock down, made St. Stephens foul, then stepped to the foul line and hit the free throws.”
In a game that saw 10 lead changes and five ties, as a very athletic team St. Stephens provided a great test in preparing for next week’s match-ups with Hickory on Tuesday (10-2 overall, 3-1 Northwestern Conference) and Morganton-Freedom (13-1, 4-0) on Friday.
- 12 – Zach West
- 9 – Jake Sears
- 8 – Blane St. Clair
- 5 – Anderson Castle
- 4 – Jaiden Bond
- 3 – Andrew Freeman
- 3 – Jackson Earnhardt
- 2 – Ethan Rothrock
- 2 –
- 1 – Jackson Greene
- 17 – Axavier Byrd
- 8 – Will Rose
- 8 – Matthew Walker
- 6 – J. Ikard
- 3 – Mikey Daaboul
- 2 – Joshadrian Ikard
- 1 – Jayden Burgess