Mallard Creek slips past Watauga
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga’s run in the state 4-A playoffs ended in the second round Wednesday night with a 55-41 loss to Charlotte Mallard Creek at Lentz-Eggers Gym. The Pioneers, after beating East Gaston 77-75 in overtime two days earlier, saw their season end at 14-12.
The Pioneers look like they would push Mallard Creek (20-5) down the stretch of the fourth quarter after a Jay Harrill 3-point basket closed the Mavericks’ lead to 42-37 with around three minutes left.
Things looked even better for the Pioneers when Mallard Creek’s Dominique Henderson badly missed a layup on the Mavericks’ ensuing possession. But Mallard Creek center Logan Keith got the rebound and found Jonathan Tucker, who drained a 3-point shot that put the Mavericks in front 45-37 with 3:40 left.
“It was huge,” Pioneers coach Rob Sanders said. “To execute that play to get the 3-ball to go in, you feel a bit of momentum swing. Obviously, for the other team to scramble out and answer your 3-ball, it’s got to be a dagger and seemed to take the wind out of our sails a bit.”
Tucker’s basket took away the momentum the Pioneers were building after trailing 40-30 at the start of the fourth quarter. Watauga would score just two more times — a Harrill layup with 3:04 left and a basket from DeWayne Mackey with 1:15 left.
“He was cold and came off the bench and hit that three and you definitely have to match runs,” Mallard Creek coach David Rutledge said. “They hit a huge three — it was a momentum swing. To get that three back can deflate a team and inflate our team.”
Tucker’s basket was the only shot he made the entire game. It was also the only basket from the field Mallard Creek made in the fourth quarter. After missing their first two attempts, the Mavericks converted 11-of-14 from the foul line the rest of the period.
That didn’t come as a surprise to Sanders, who said Mallard Creek went into the game making 71 percent of its foul shots during the season. Mallard Creek made 19-of-27 against the Pioneers, who settled for making 5-of-9 from the foul line.
“It’s frustrating to have a 15-5 foul count at home, but we knew that going in,” Sanders said. “We told the guys going in as a team, they’re a 71-percent foul shooting team, so we’re going to have to play defense without fouling. We can’t put them on the line.”
Harrill led all Watauga scorers with 10 points. Mackey added nine points, five steals and four assists, while Collin Augustine and Cam Baker scored six points each. Augustine and Allen Koppenhaver each pulled down six rebounds and Ben Howser had five.
Henderson scored 21 points, while Terrance Durham scored 17 for Mallard Creek. Durham was starting for injured starting point guard Dupree Potter, who is out for the season with a broken occipital bone.
Mallard Creek looked ready to bounce the Pioneers out of the gym by scoring the first eight points of the game. Watauga missed two shots on its first possession and turned the ball over on its next three, which helped the Mavericks take an 8-0 lead.
Watauga stormed back by closing out the first quarter with a 14-0 run and took a 14-8 lead.