Pioneers beat Spartans in first round
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga’s boys’ basketball team needed an unusual finish to beat South Caldwell the last time the two teams played.
Watauga scored five points in the final 3.5 seconds to force an overtime victory. In Watauga’s 67-56 victory over South Caldwell in the first round of the Northwestern Conference Tournament Monday at Lentz-Eggers Gym, Watauga took a first-quarter lead and never gave it up.
Watauga (13-9), seeded fourth in the tournament, plays No. 1 seed Fred T. Foard (20-4) at 6:30 tonight. The Pioneers lost both of their regular-season games to the Tigers.
Pioneers coach Rob Sanders said that the Pioneers have the capability to beat anybody they have played this season. They had a chance to beat Foard on the road, but fell short.
“We gave away way too many wins this season,” Pioneers coach Rob Sanders said. “We know we can beat anyone as long as we don’t beat ourselves.”
Watauga, which beat South Caldwell twice during the regular season, claimed a 17-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. Watauga never let the Spartans get closer than three points the rest of the game.
South Caldwell (8-13) closed to 27-24 in the second quarter, but Watauga closed out the first half with a 8-2 run and took a 35-26 lead into halftime.
The Pioneers used balance throughout their lineup. Collin Augustine scored a career-high 16 points after making seven shots from the field. Ben Howser added 14 points and six rebounds and four assists.
Sanders said Augustine is starting to turn into the player he was back in June during summer workouts. Augustine broke his collarbone during football season, and then broke his hand early in basketball season.
Sanders said Augustine is now in shape and is starting to reap the rewards of being around the gym.
“He’s going to be quicker than just about any post player who can guard him,” Sanders said. “He’s going to be a better ball-handler than just about any other post player that’s guarding and a better outside shooter. He’s a solid athlete and that makes for a tougher matchup down low. The last couple of games, he’s starting to show that athleticism.”
Point guard DeWayne Mackey added 10 points and nine assists. He also had five rebounds. Fellow guard Cam Baker scored nine points, including a slam dunk in the second quarter. Allen Koppenhaver added seven points for the Pioneers.
Baker also grabbed six rebounds, dished out six assists and had five steals.
Sanders likes the balance.
“It’s what you want,” he said. “When you can get contributions from everybody that steps out on the floor, you become very difficult to defend and the kids enjoy it.”
South Caldwell got 23 points from forward Jordan Propst, but just nine from fellow forward Jared Mask, who was tough on the Pioneers during the regular season.
“I was most impressed with how we executed on Mask and how we were really taking him out of the ballgame and putting all the pressure on Propst,” Sanders said. “If South Caldwell has a weakness, it’s going to be their perimeter play. With Propst down low and Mask shooting the basketball, and with those two guys clicking, they can beat anybody. We wanted to make sure that whatever defense we were in, we were pressuring their perimeter players and trying to create as much offense off our defense we could.”
South Caldwell point guard Jordan Barker added 10 points.
Watauga boys 67, South Caldwell 56
South Caldwell (8-13)
Smith 1 09-0 2, Brown 1 0-0 3, Baker 2 5-8 10, Wakefield 0 2-2 2, Propst 9 4-5 23, Mask 2 4-4 9, Greene 1 1-2 3, Eggers 2 0-2 4, Minton 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 16-23 56.
Harrill 1 0-0 2, Eggers 1 0-0 2, Poulos 0 2-4 2, Sturgill 1 0-0 2, Augustine 7 2-4 16, Margolis 0 1-2 1, Koppenhaver 3 1-2 7, Baker 4 1-2 0, Howser 4 5-6 14, Mackey 3 4-6 10, Lambert 1 0-0 2, Dobbins 0 0-0 0, Steury 0 0-0 0, Gailes 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 16-26 67.
South Caldwell 10 16 8 22 — 56
Watauga 17 18 12 20 — 67
3-point goals—South Caldwell 4 (Brown, Barker, Propst, Mask), Watauga 1 (Howser). Total fouls—South Caldwell 21, Watauga 18. Fouled out—South Caldwell, Barker. Technical fouls—Watauga, Mackey, Howser.