McDowell's girls' cruise past Pioneers
by Staff Reports
When the Pioneers were missing layups, they stood no chance against McDowell.
Watauga (9-18), seeded 32nd in the 32-team Western Regional field, fell behind by as many as 16 points in the first quarter. The Pioneers rallied in the second quarter, but went cold in the third. McDowell pounced on the opportunity and took a 67-44 victory in the first round of the state 4-A playoffs.
The Pioneers got 15 points from senior point guard Savanna Wood, who was playing in her final game at Watauga. Wood, who made two of the Pioneers' five 3-point baskets, will play college golf at Appalachian State next fall.
Clare Harris scored nine points on three 3-point baskets in the first half.
McDowell (23-0), which is top-seeded team in the regional and top-ranked program in 4-A by the website ncpreps.com, wasted little time in taking advantage of the Pioneers' cold shooting by taking a 19-3 first quarter lead.
Watauga coach Klay Anderson felt that his team was getting good looks at the basket, but were missing easy layups.
The score changed once the Pioneers started making those shots. Watauga pulled to 23-9 at the end of the first quarter and 35-30 by halftime.
"The first and third quarters did us in," Anderson said. "We missed a lot of easy shots point-blank and they didn't."
Watauga's fortunes went under in the third quarter when McDowell outscored the Pioneers 21-5. The Titans got 15 points from Riley Smith and 14 from Aryonna Noblitt.
McDowell point guard Markai Stacey and fellow guard Karley McCrary both scored 12 points.
"In the third quarter, I really believe they felt they had to play a little harder and kind of act like the No. 1 seed," Anderson said of McDowell. "They took advantage of mismatches and played McDowell basketball. They're not 22-0 for no reason. They have tremendous talent."
Anderson said he was happy with how the Pioneers were able to persevere through the season despite injuries to Wood (ankle) and Harris (wrist), two of the team's best scorers. Both players missed games because of injuries suffered during the season.
"I'm proud of what we did," Anderson said. "With us battling injuries during the middle part of the season and not being able to get into a common flow, it took a while for us to get some momentum going."
Anderson also said the Northwestern Conference is a good league for girls' basketball. Hickory is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in 3-A, while Freedom, Patton, South Caldwell and St. Stephens were not easy opponents to face.
Watauga ended the regular season with a victory at home against South Caldwell, and then beat the Spartans in Sawmills one day later.
"South has a good team. They won last night," Anderson said. "It shows what kind of team we had. Injuries derailed us and the league was good. St. Stephens came out of nowhere and Patton and Freedom are both high quality teams."
In another girls' playoff games, Monroe Parkwood beat Ashe 62-28 in the first round of the state 2-A playoffs.
Hickory, the No. 1 seed in the 3-A Western Region, beat West Henderson 80-35 in the first round of the playoffs. Crest beat St. Stephens 68-48, Southwest Randolph beat Patton 70-66, and Freedom beat North Buncombe 70-58.
In the 4-A bracket, South Caldwell beat visiting Southeast Guilford 69-66.
On Wednesday, Hickory Ridge plays at Hickory, Freedom plays at Ledford and South Caldwell plays at Mount Tabor.