Watauga boys blast Patton
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga's boys' basketball team is quickly becoming the team nobody wants to see in a tournament.
The Pioneers ripped Patton 86-60 in the first round of the Northwestern Conference Tournament Tuesday night at Lentz-Eggers Gym one day after Watauga crushed South Caldwell by 45 points.
Watauga (17-8), the No. 4 seed in the tournament, takes on the winner of top seeded Freedom and eight-seeded South Caldwell at 7 on Thursday at Freedom. The Pioneers beat Freedom 75-65 in Boone on Jan. 31, but lost to the Patriots 82-71 on Jan. 8 after coming back from a 23-point deficit to within four points in the second half.
Watauga swept South Caldwell, including an 83-38 beat-down on Monday.
Watauga did much of the same to fifth-seeded Patton (13-11), another team they swept during the regular season. The Pioneers made 11 3-point baskets, including six by Jay Harrill.
"I was very nervous. I'm not going to lie to you," Pioneers coach Rob Sanders said. "I know that Patton is a solid basketball team and to beat somebody three times is very difficult."
Harrill led all scorers with 32 points. He was often left unguarded while Patton was chasing Watauga's crisp passes in an offense that allowed the Pioneers to get several open shots.
The rest of Watauga's scoring was balanced. Cam Baker scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while and Aaron Dobbins scored 12 points and pulled down nine boards. Michael Ebaugh came off the bench to add seven points.
All but one of the Pioneers who played scored at least two points.
"At the beginning of the season, we all wrote down goals and one of the goals was to win the conference tournament," Dobbins said. "Throughout the regular season we showed we didn't play as well as we wanted to, so coach Sanders said to go out there and show everybody we can beat everybody in the state. We can win this thing, so everybody's really excited to go out there and play,"
Watauga's defense helped get its offense into the Pioneers' running game, which led to some easy layups. The Pioneers' passing during their half-court game also allowed for some open shots from the perimeter and inside.
The result was the Pioneers shooting 33-of-55 (60 percent) from the field, including 19-of-29 (66 percent) in the first half. The Pioneers also outrebounded Patton 40-24 for the game.
"It's like I told our guys after the game last night -- we are a dangerous team when we're clicking on all cylinders, Sanders said. "We seem to be doing that at the right time, so hopefully we can keep it going."
Rafael Horton led the Panthers in scoring with 15 points. Ethan Roper and Dax Bostain each scored 12, while Jeron Morris had 11.
The Panthers struggled with their shooting from the field by making 21-of-54 (38 percent) from the field the entire game.
Watauga stayed on pace for a 100-point game until the fourth quarter, when Sanders started substituting frequently, and the Pioneers stopped aggressively attacking the basket.
"We didn't want to have any quick possessions," Sanders said. "We wanted to work the basketball around and to make sure we were taking quality time off the clock. On the defense we wanted to make them work and shorten the game as much as possible."
The Pioneers led 75-47 going into the fourth quarter, but the game was out of reach for the Panthers by halftime. Watauga led 50-28 by halftime, but that could have been worse had Patton not scored the final basket of the half, and Watauga not missed a layup just before the buzzer.
There was a brief time when Patton led 3-0 after Morris drained a 3-pointer to start the game. Patton was tied 11-11 with the Pioneers until Watauga closed out the first quarter with a 9-2 run to take a 20-13 lead.
The Pioneers pulled away in the second quarter with brutal efficiency. Watauga went on a 17-6 run in a stretch that saw them make 6-of-9 shots from the field, and score on 7-of-8 possessions.
Of the three shots Watauga missed during that stretch, two were rebounded by the Pioneers and put back in the basket.
During that same period, Patton went scoreless in six straight possessions.
Patton started to pick up its offense later in the quarter by scoring on 4-of-6 possessions, including a 3-pointer from Bostain.
The Pioneers answered by scoring on six straight possessions, including 3-point shots from Baker and Harrill, and took their 22-point lead into halftime.
Watauga took its largest lead, 70-41, in the third quarter on a 8-2 run capped by a Dobbins steal, who got the ball to T.J. Poulos who found Harrill for a layup.
Watauga boys 86, Patton 60
Patton 60 (13-11)
Bostain 4 2-2 12, McElven 0 2-2 2, Roper 4 4-4 12, Morris 3 4-4 11, Ervin 2 1-1 5, Hamer 1 0-0 2, Espinoza 0 1-2 1, Horton 7 1-4 15, Price 0 0-2 0, Williams 0 0-0 0, Brown 0 0-0 0, Storie 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 15-21 60.
Watauga 86 (17-8)
Harrill 12 2-2 32, Eggers 1 0-0 3, Gailes 1 0-0 2, Andrews 1 0-0 3, Poulos 1 0-0 2, Dobbins 4 4-5 12, Jones 1 0-0 3, Ebaugh 3 1-1 7, Baker 6 2-2 16, Richardson 0 0-2 0, Lambert 3 0-0 6. Totals 33 9-12 86.
Patton 13 15 19 13 -- 60
Watauga 20 30 25 11 -- 86
3-point goals--Patton 3 (Bostain 2, Morris), Watauga 11 (Harrill 6, Baker 2, Eggers, Andrews, Jones). Rebounds--Patton 24 (Horton 7), Watauga 40 (Baker 10). Turnovers--Patton 9, Watauga 12. Total fouls--Patton 16, Watauga 19. Fouled out--None. Technical fouls--None.