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Originally published: 2013-01-03 18:34:35
Last modified: 2013-01-03 18:34:35

Pioneers return to court vs. Hickory

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

There is no easing back into the 2012-13 schedule for Watauga’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

Both teams, which last played in the Alleghany Christmas Invitational, return to the court Friday in home showdowns against Hickory. The girls’ game begins around 6:30 p.m. following the boys’ junior varsity game.

The boys’ varsity game follows the girls’ varsity game.

Watauga girls’ coach Klay Anderson knows that the Pioneers (4-4) face an uphill task in playing the Red Tornadoes. Hickory returns three starters, including two sophomores — Yazmen Hanna and Danasia Witherspoon — who have eased their way into leadership roles.

“They’re very similar to last year,” Anderson said. “They have a lot of the same players. They lost a post player and a wing player, but the majority of the team returns. They’re as good as advertised. They’re athletic and quick to the ball.”

Hickory (11-0) is coming off a 74-43 rout of Alexander Central. The Red Tornadoes scored 19 straight points to take a 24-11 lead, and outscored the Cougars 35-18 in the second half.

It was the Red Tornadoes’ 14th straight Catawba Valley Classic championship. Hanna was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and Farrah Young scored 16 points against Alexander Central, which slipped to 12-1.

Watauga is coming off a 64-53 victory over Alleghany on Dec. 29. The Pioneers got 21 points from Hannah Margolis and 15 from Savanna Wood.

The victory stopped a four-game losing streak. One day earlier, the Pioneers lost 56-43 to North Surry, which has just one loss all season.

That loss was to Hickory 60-45.

Anderson said the Pioneers will approach Hickory the same way they approached North Surry and Alleghany.

“Honestly, we’ll approach this as we would any other game,” Anderson said. “We want to play this as we play all teams.”

Watauga’s games in the Alleghany tournament were the only two the Pioneers have played since Dec. 11 when they lost 50-45 to traditionally powerful McDowell. Watauga led by 11 points two times during the game, including 31-20 in the third quarter.

But the Pioneers struggled with scoring in the third, which allowed McDowell to rally. Anderson would like to see the Pioneers not go through such scoring droughts that allow teams to rally back into contention.

“Back in December we played McDowell and played a solid first quarter,” Anderson said. “Then we got to the third quarter and we fell apart.”

The Pioneers begin a tough time on their schedule Friday. They’ll play seven games in 14 days, which is one less game than they’ve played since November. Watauga postponed games against Fred T. Foard and West Caldwell in December because of the sudden death of girls’ lacrosse coach Leigh Wallace.

The Pioneers play at Wilkes Central on Jan. 8 and at Ashe County on Jan. 9. They’ll follow with a road game at Alexander Central on Jan. 11.

“We’re only a third of the way through the season,” Anderson said. “We’ve got the final two-thirds in the last six weeks. We’ll play seven games in 14 days, so that’s a daunting task.”

Watauga’s boys’ team won its only Alleghany tournament game by beating North Surry 75-50 on Dec. 28. The Pioneers (5-2) got 24 points, 12 rebounds and five steals from Cam Baker. Ben Margolis added 16 points.

Watauga was supposed to play the Raleigh Heat, a home-schooled team, on Dec. 29. The Heat chose to play a game in the City of Durham Holiday Classic instead on the same night.