Watauga boys' outlast Alexander Central
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
TAYLORSVILLE -- Watauga and Alexander Central will have a tough time trying to top the game they played Wednesday night.
Watauga pulled away from the Cougars to claim a 61-58 double-overtime victory at Alexander Central's gym after leading nearly the entire first half, but trailing most of the second half.
Watauga cashed in on Alexander Central fouls by making its final six foul shots in the second overtime to hold off the Cougars. Eli Gailes sunk four of them and Jay Harrill made the final two with a fraction of a second left in the game to seal the victory.
But Watauga (3-0) did not put Alexander Central (2-2) away simply by winning a free throw contest with the Cougars. Alexander Central's Zack Starnes converted an offensive rebound into a three-point play with 1.8 seconds left in the second overtime to pull the Cougars to 59-58.
It took Harrill's two foul shots, combined with an errant inbounds pass by Alexander Central following those foul shots, to put the Pioneers' in the clear.
"We probably jinxed it, but we talk about it all the time," Pioneers coach Rob Sanders said. "What would you expect except for an overtime when these two teams get together? These teams play so hard and neither one have any quit in them. You can get down a couple of possessions and know that you're just a short run from being right back in the ballgame."
"Both teams really competed," Alexander Central coach Ed Wills said. "It was a great basketball game. It was one of those games that nobody should lose and it hurts even more when it's you that loses. Both teams played really hard and deserve a lot of credit."
Harrill scored 16 points and made 2-of-7 3-point attempts. Watauga, which made 10 3-pointers in a win over Wilkes Central and nine in a win over Avery, made 6-of-20 shots from the 3-point line.
Cam Baker added 12 points and nine rebounds, while Aaron Dobbins had 10 points. Baker and Harrill each played 40 minutes Wednesday night.
"They shot the ball very well in the first two games," Wills said. "For us, controlling that is always important. They made a couple at a key time in the second half when we built a little bit of a lead and got back even, but other than that stretch I thought we guarded them really well."
Alexander Central's 2-3 match-up zone proved again to be a handful for Watauga to overcome. Watauga was held to 33.3 percent shooting in the first half and 38.8 percent for the game.
Watauga made up for its shooting problems by forcing 24 Alexander Central turnovers. Alexander Central made 21-of-34 shots (61.8 percent) overall, but Watauga's offense made 19-of-49 shots from the field, and 17-of-26 shooting from the foul line.
"That zone is such an amoeba," Sanders said. "It changes with every pass and it makes it difficult. We talked about it in the pregame that we just don't see it that often. You have to adjust your offenses and you have to screen off it and it's real frustrating. I told our guys that we were dangerously close to being right were they wanted us to be."
It wasn't like that at the start. Alexander Central started slowly by missing its first six shots and turning the ball over three times before getting a 3-point basket from Deion Wall. Watauga pulled in front 9-3 at the end of the first quarter, but lost that lead when the Cougars opened the second quarter with a 14-4 run and took a 17-13 lead with 1:45 left in the first half.
Watauga closed out the quarter with a 7-0 run, including a Trevor Eggers 3-pointer that he banked through the basket at the buzzer. That gave the Pioneers a 20-17 halftime lead.
Watauga looked poised to win the game in regulation when it took a 47-43 lead with 51.5 seconds left in the game, but Alexander Central got a basket from Wall and two foul shots from Davis Miller that tied the game 47-47 with 19.7 seconds left.
Watauga missed two foul shots, and the Cougars got the ball back with 2.7 seconds left. Wall went up for a shot, which was blocked by Matt Lambert, although Alexander Central's fan wanted a foul.
"We had a good look at it," Wills said. "You can't control it and so you've got to play through it. It's hard, but it is what it is."
Both teams settled for three points in the first overtime. Watauga had the final possession when Harrill, who played quarterback on Watauga's football team in 2012, threw a full-court pass to Baker, one of his receivers on that team with one second on the clock.
Baker caught the pass, but could not convert it into a basket, which forced a second overtime.
Watauga hosts border rival Ashe County Thursday night.
Watauga boys 61, Alexander Central 58 (2OT)
Watauga 61 (3-0)
Baker 4-11 3-4 12, Lambert 1-6 2-2 5, Harrill 5-13 4-6 16, Eggers 2-5 0-0 5, Gailes 0-1 4-4 4, Poulos 1-1 0-0 2, Dobbins 3-4 4-8 10, Jones 3-7 0-2 7, Ebaugh 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-49 17-26 61.
Alexander Central 58 (2-2)
Ireland 6-8 1-1 14, tarnes 4-7 2-4 10, Wall 5-9 1-3 12, Gant 1-1 3-5 5, D. Miller 1-2 2-2 4, R. Miller 1-2 1-2 4, Simons 0-1 0-0 0,Bowman 3-4 1-3 9, Wicker 0-0 0-0 0, Smalls 0-0 0-0 0, Stikeleather 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-34 11-20 58.
Watauga 9 11 6 21 3 11 -- 61
Alexander Central 3 14 13 17 3 8 -- 58
3-point goals--Watauga 6-20 (Harrill 2-7, Lambert 1-2, Baker 1-3, Eggers 1-4, Jones 1-4), Alex Central 5-7 (Bowman 2-2, Ireland 1-1, Wall 1-1, Simmons 1-2, D. Miller 0-1). Rebounds--Watauga 21 (Baker 9), Alex Central 26 (Starnes, Wall 6). Assists--Watauga 9 (Harrill, Gailes 3), Alex Central 13 (Starnes 4). Steals--Watauga 4 (Four with one), Alex Central 5 (Gant 3). Turnovers--Watauga 12, Alex Central 24. Total fouls--Watauga 20, Alex Central 24. Fouled out--Watauga, Dobbins; Alex Central Ireland, Bowman. Technical fouls--None. Att.--NA.