Watauga boys beat East Gaston in overtime
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga’s boys’ basketball team is familiar with playing overtime periods in games. That experience paid off Monday.
The Pioneers, behind some clutch foul shooting from point guard DeWayne Mackey, beat East Gaston 77-75 in overtime in the first round of the state 4-A playoffs Monday at Lentz-Eggers Gym. Watauga (14-10) was rewarded with a second home game Wednesday against Charlotte Mallard Creek (18-8), which beat Sun Valley Monday night.
Watauga had to contend with East Gaston’s scoring duo of DeSean Murray and Elijah Gore. Murray poured in 36 points by making 11 2-point shots and three 3-point shots from the field.
Murray also grabbed 19 rebounds, several on the offensive end. All of that was still not enough to beat the Pioneers, who were playing in their sixth overtime game of the season. One of those was an eight-overtime loss to St. Stephens, which was the second-most overtime periods played in a prep basketball game in state history.
“That is the upside to having that many situations in the regular season,” Pioneers coach Rob Sanders said. “We talk about it with the guys all the time. When you’re in that many overtime games, and obviously the eight-overtime game, you’re going to face all types of situations and adversity to prepare you for situations like tonight.”
Gore added 17 points, including a key 3-point basket late in the fourth quarter. His second 3-point basket gave the Warriors a 62-60 lead with 1:29 left in the game.
Watauga countered with a basket from Cam Baker with 58 seconds left. Watauga got a big break when Gore missed two foul shots with 2.9 seconds left.
Mackey nearly gave the Pioneers the victory on their ensuing possession, but his half-court shot bounced off the rim.
Mackey didn’t miss that many shots. He finished with 19 points, including 6-of-9 from the foul line. Few of his foul shots were a critical as the three Mackey made with 45.6 seconds left in the overtime period.
Those foul shots gave the Pioneers a 75-69 lead. Sanders felt that even with a six-point lead, the Pioneers were not finished with East Gaston yet.
“We had a (six) point lead or something and I said ‘Guys, this is not over,’” Sanders said. “You guys know this. You know we’re only halfway there and we cannot play to lose. We have to play and seal this off.”
East Gaston would not let them. Gore hit back-to-back foul shots in the overtime period, the final with 12 seconds left, to tie the game 75-75 with 12 seconds left.
“We told them that we’ve been here,” Sanders said. “If anybody knows how to play in an overtime period, it ought to be us.”
East Gaston had a golden opportunity to win the game by stealing the ball on Watauga’s ensuing possession, but Jawantee Olds could not get his shot to fall. Mackey was fouled on the rebound, and calmly sank two foul shots with 1.6 seconds left to put the Pioneers in front 77-75.
Jay Harrill and Cam Baker tipped the ensuing inbounds pass to preserve the win.
Five Pioneers scored in double figures. Baker added 17 points for the Pioneers, while Ben Howser scored 13. Collin Augustine and Ben Margolis each scored 10 points.
Olds scored 10 for East Gaston, which made nine 3-pointers in the game. Watauga countered with seven 3-point baskets.
“The two missed free throws hurt real bad,” first-year East Gaston coach Eugene Farrar said. “I think we had a turnover after that in the overtime that kind of hurt, so that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Watauga boys 77, East Gaston 75 (OT)
East Gaston 16 20 11 15 13 — 75
Watauga 18 17 15 12 15 — 77
3-point goals—East Gaston 9 (Murray 3, Gore 3, Olds 2, Price), Watauga 7 (Harrill 2, Margolis 2, Howser 2, Mackey). Total fouls—East Gaston 16, Watauga 8. Fouled out—None. Technical fouls—Howser.