Watauga boys' basketball team opens with win
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga’s boys’ basketball team was fortunate enough to have a big enough lead on rival Avery to keep a tough dry spell offensively from keeping the Pioneers from winning the game. Watauga regrouped and beat the Vikings 58-44 in the first game of the season for both teams.
Watauga owned the first half. The Pioneers shot out to an 11-2 lead after holding the Vikings to just 1-of-7 shooting and forced five turnovers during the stretch. Watauga converted three straight turnovers into a 5-0 mini-run, which led to the Pioneers’ early nine-point lead.
Watauga led 16-8 at the end of the first quarter and built a 34-18 halftime lead. Pioneers coach Rob Sanders wanted to keep the defensive pressure up on the Vikings in the second half, but also not rush into taking quick shots and getting careless with the ball.
The defense went well in the third, but the Pioneers got sloppy with the basketball offensively.
“We talked at halftime about exactly what we did not want to do, which happened in the third quarter,” Sanders said. “We talked about and continue to do all of the things that got us in that position.”
That meant not turning the ball over and getting to the foul line. Watauga made 6-of-10 free throws in the second quarter, and closed out the first half with a 10-4 run to take its 16-point halftime lead.
Yet the Pioneers held a 34-25 lead before a pair of DeWayne Mackey foul shots with 1:13 left in the quarter. Watauga eventually took a 41-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
Avery’s offense did not take complete advantage of Watauga’s drought. The Vikings scored just seven points on 11 possessions after turning the ball over three times and making just three shots from the field.
Sanders said the Pioneers got away from working the ball around and establishing their offense when an easy shot wasn’t available. Instead, the Pioneers settled too quickly.
“We started playing faster than we wanted to play,” Sanders said. “We want to play an up-tempo game, but we don’t want to come down and make one pass and throw up a shot. The quicker we play in the half-court, the more possessions we give them and with the 3-point line, they’re never going to be out of it.”
Watauga put Avery out of contention for good by scoring the first five points of the fourth quarter to take a 46-28 lead that was never seriously challenged. Tyler Sturgill capped the mini-run with a basket off an inbounds pass after the Pioneers got the ball back on a missed foul shot.
“The defense was probably the reason why the third quarter didn’t get away from us more than it did,” Sanders said. “Getting to 1:13 before we scored in a quarter and still have a lead, your defense is doing a pretty good job.”
Sturgill finished with nine points. Ben Margolis led the Pioneers with 13 points with help from the only two 3-point baskets the Pioneers made. Ben Howser added 12 points.
DeWayne Mackey scored all six of his points from free throw line, but also dished out nine assists. Cam Baker added a team-high five rebounds to go with his seven points.
The loss spoiled the debut of first-year Avery coach Scott Polsgrove, who came over to Avery after coaching at Lees-McRae.
Point guard Shea Buchanan scored 10 for Avery, getting seven of them from the foul line. Buchanan was the lone Avery player to score in double figures.
Watauga won’t play again until Nov. 27 when the Pioneers host Wilkes Central. Sanders cautioned his players about being inactive during the Thanksgiving weekend.
“It’s one of the unfortunate ways we have to start our season,” Sanders said. “Everybody’s all fired up at the start of the year and you get that first game out of the way, then Thanksgiving falls and you’ve got a lot of off days to deal with.”
Watauga boys 58, Avery 44
Waldrup 1 0-0 2, Watson 2 2-2 6, Stafford 1 0-0 2, Stewart 2 2-4 4, S. Buchanan 1 7-10 10, Phillips 3 0-1 6, Wotell 2 0-0 4, Lowery 1 2-4 4, Tennant 0 0-0 0, C. Buchanan 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 12-23 44.
Sturgill 4 1-3 9, Gailes 0 1-2 1, Margolis 4 3-6 13, Koppenhaver 3 0-0 6, Baker 2 3-6 7, Howser 4 4-4 12, Mackey 0 6-12 6, Lambert 2 0-0 4. Totals 19 18-29 58.
Avery 8 10 10 16 — 44
Watauga 16 18 7 17 — 58
3-point goals—Avery 2 (Childress, S. Buchanan); Watauga 2 (Margolis 2). Rebounds—Avery 18, Watauga 27 (Baker 5). Turnovers—Avery 21, Watauga 20. Total fouls—Avery 25, Watauga 25. Technical fouls—None.