Hickory boys flatten Watauga
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
HICKORY — Hickory’s Rahiem Connelly is well-known around the Northwestern Conference for his 3-point shooting.
Connolly once made seven 3-point baskets in a quarter. He did not do that to Watauga Tuesday night at David Craft Gym, but his eight 3-point baskets helped the Red Tornadoes take a 75-52 victory over the Pioneers.
Connelly added a two-point basket and went 1-for-2 from the foul line. He was one of three Hickory players who scored in double figures.
Pioneers coach Rob Sanders did not want to take away and credit from Hickory, but felt his players could have done a better job of containing Hickory’s running game. Watauga dropped a heart-breaking 74-72 overtime loss to the Red Tornadoes earlier in the season, and Sanders felt Watauga should have been able to keep up with Hickory by slowing down the tempo of the game.
“We made Hickory look very good tonight,” Sanders said. “It’s disappointing when you know exactly what you need to do going into the ballgame, talk about what they want to do, and how to counteract that. We know that Hickory wants a very fast-paced basketball game. The pressure they’re giving you isn’t necessarily to force turnovers and throw the ball away. It’s more to make you play fast. We fell right into that trap in the first half.”
Hickory dominated the Pioneers from the start. Watauga cut a nine-point deficit to six with a 3-point basket from Ben Margolis, but Hickory struck back with a 14-8 run and finished the first quarter with a 25-14 lead.
Hickory turned its high- octane into a higher gear by opening the second quarter with a 10-2 run and a 35-16 lead. Watauga scored just one field goal, a basket from Cam Baker, in the final 5:56 of the quarter and fell behind 47-23 by halftime.
“Rather than playing our type of basketball where we want half-court sets and we want to create offense and on the other end, we want them to work as hard as they can for every shot, we kept losing Connelly,” Sanders said. “We came down offensively and whoever had the basketball would try to take on their entire team thinking there’s a 15 or a 20-point basket out there lurking, instead of methodically trying to get ourselves back into the basketball game.”
Hickory took its largest lead late in the third quarter when Mykell Linebarger scored a layup to give the Red Tornadoes a 69-31 lead. Watauga closed the game by outscoring the Red Tornadoes 23-6 in the fourth quarter.
Ben Howser led the Pioneers in scoring with 19 points. Baker added 10 points, while Collin Augustine added nine points off the bench.
Hickory got 17 points from C.J. Wardrick, who missed the first game against Watauga. Zach Jarrett, who has a baseball scholarship to Charlotte, scored 13 points.
Hickory boys 75, Watauga 56
Steury 1 0-0 2, Sturgill 3 1-1 7, Augustine 4 1-1 9, Margolis 3 0-0 8, Baker 4 2-5 10, Howser 7 4-4 19, Mackey 0 1-4 1, Lambert 0 0-0 0, Harrill 0 0-0 0, Koppenhaver 0 0-0 0, Eggers 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 9-15 56.
Jarrett 4 4-5 13, Wardrick 7 2-4 17, Beatty 1 0-0 2, Connelly 9 1-2 27, Fuller 3 0-0 6, Linbarger 4 0-0 8, Petty 1 0-0 2, Malbon 0 0-2 0, Creech 0 0-0 0, Abernathy 0 0-0 0, Washington 0 0-0 0. Totals 29 8-16 75.
Watauga 11 9 10 23 — 56
Hickory 25 22 22 6 — 75
3-point goals—Watauga 3 (Margolis 2, Howser), Hickory 10 (Connelly 8, Jarrett, Wardrick). Total fouls—Watauga 18, Hickory 19. Fouled out—None. Technical fouls—None.