Harrill's baskets lifts Watauga past South
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Opponents of Watauga’s boys’ basketball team may want to pay more attention to Jay Harrill.
Once again, Watauga turned to Harrill to make a clutch shot. Once again, Harrill delivered with that shot and then a little bit extra.
And he did it with style.
Harrill scored Watauga’s final five points of the game to forge a tie with visiting South Caldwell Friday night at Lentz-Eggers Gym. Harrill added 10 points to his total in Watauga’s 70-66 victory over the Spartans. The five he scored at the end of regulation were some of the most dramatic points scored in a season that has seen the Pioneers play in five games that have gone overtime.
With Watauga trailing 54-49, Harrill drained a 3-point shot with 3.5 seconds left in the game. Watauga coach Rob Sanders called timeout and instructed his team that they needed to steal the ensuing inbounds pass if they wanted any chance of winning the game.
“When we were down by five, we had a lot of faces that said this is it, this is over,” Sanders said. “We said no, this doesn’t have to be over. Anything can happen. We’ve got to hit a shot and it came down to making a huge shot. When we called timeout, we told them we have to have this ball. We have to have this ball if we want to win this game. There won’t be enough time if we go through the fouling thing.”
Harrill stepped in front of the pass, turned and tossed the ball off the backboard and through the basket as time expired. Harrill, who had his arm grabbed on the play, but still managed to get his shot off, tied the game 54-54 and sent it to overtime.
“Coach said we had to get the five-second call or a steal,” Harrill said. “Their man went to the left and went back right. I got a hand on it and it came right to me. I just threw it up.”
Harrill was trying to get a foul called, but none of the officials blew their whistle.
“I turned around to shoot and he grabbed my arm, so I just threw it up hoping I’d get the foul call,” Harrill. “They didn’t call it and it banged in, so I was happy.”
From there, Harrill scored 10 of his 18 points, including four game-clinching free throws on the Pioneers’ two final possessions. Harrill made four 3-point baskets, two of them in the overtime period.
Harrill made his first 3-pointer in the second quarter, which gave him some confidence.
“He struggled early on and I think it’s kind of been a mental block after he has such a great game at Fred T. Foard, to come back against Alexander Central and not really find his shot,” Sanders said of Harrill. “Then he struggled, as we all did, to find offense against Ford this past Wednesday. Jay started to find his touch. When we took Jay out, we told him he needed to stay ready because we’re going to need him.”
“I’m so happy for him, because when you see this kid in practice, if you give him three feet, he knocks it down,” Sanders added. “He’s done it twice now in a game and it’s frustrating for him to not always come out in a game and not shoot the same way he does in practice.”
DeWayne Mackey added 14 points, eight assists and five steals. Ben Margolis, who hit two 3-point goals before fouling out, scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Watauga looked ready to win the game without any overtime periods when it took a 46-37 lead with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers built that lead by stealing the ball away from South Caldwell on seven of the Spartans’ eight possessions during an 8-0 run.
South Caldwell came back via the foul line. The Spartans, who made 24-of-28 free throws in the game, made 11-of-13 free throws down the stretch in their 17-3 run that put South in front 54-49.
South Caldwell’s Jared Mask, who made 10-of-11 foul shots in the game and nine points during the Spartans’ late-game run, led all scorers with 22 points. Jordyn Propst added 10 points and Lance Minto scored 10 after making all six of his foul shots.
Watauga 70, South Caldwell 66 (OT)
Smith 1 0-0 2, Barker 2 3-4 7, Minto 2 6-6 10, Wakefield 1 0-0 3, Propst 7 5-7 20, Mask 6 10-11 22, Eggers 1 0-0 2, Greene 0 0-0 0, Totals 20 24-28 66.
Watauga (11-8, 5-5)
Harrill 5 4-4 18, Sturgill 1 0-0 2, Gailes 2 0-1 5, Augustine 3 0-0 6, Margolis 3 2-2 10, Koppenhaver 2 1-1 5, Baker 1 1-2 3, Howser 2 1-1 5, Mackey 6 1-2 14, Lambert 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 10-13 70.
South Caldwell 16 12 9 17 12 — 66
Watauga 9 18 13 14 16 — 70
3-poinr goals—South Caldwell 2 (Wakefield, Propst), Watauga 8 (Harrill 4, Margolis 2, Gailes). Rebounds—South Caldwell 26, Watauga 25 (Margolis, Augustine 7). Turnovers—South Caldwell 21, Watauga 12. Total fouls—South Caldwell 16, Watauga 23. Fouled out—Watauga, Augustine, Margolis. Technical fouls—None.