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Originally published: 2012-11-18 14:39:25
Last modified: 2012-11-18 14:40:39

Watauga girls' basketball team returns veteran group

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

It’s been rare that Watauga’s girls’ basketball team returns a veteran team to the court at the start of a season.
Of the 11 Pioneers who will take the court Monday against Avery, nine of them played on the varsity last year. While some played more than others, head coach Klay Anderson feels fortunate that so many of his players have been through the speed and the intensity of a varsity girls’ basketball game.
They, and the other two players on the Watauga roster, get their first chance at playing for keeps Monday night when they host border rival Avery.
Having so many veteran players allows Anderson to review a lot of things instead of teaching them for the first time.  It doesn’t mean that Anderson hasn’t tried to come up with different things to make the Pioneers better.
“A lot of it is review,” Anderson said. “I wouldn’t be doing my job as a coach if I didn’t research and watch people in the offseason and find some little tricks and tips that I think can help us. Maybe it’s a different way to say things. A lot of things in coaching — they call it stolen or borrowed — I saw two plays this summer, styles of offense that are similar to what we do, but have variations that I thought would work for us. We are progressing, but we want to add a few wrinkles that other teams haven’t seen before.”
Hannah Margolis returns as the team’s leading scorer. Margolis (5-foot-10) was the Pioneers’ point guard during her sophomore year, but moved to the post in 2011-12 because she was one of the taller players on the team.
Fate has moved her back to the point. Haleigh Wallace (5-3) has a possible stress fracture in her leg, which could keep her out for a long time. Anderson moved Margolis to the point, but she’ll be asked to score and pass the ball.
Margolis and junior guard Savanna Wood (5-6) will likely do the majority of the scoring. Wood was brought up to the varsity as a freshman during Margolis’ sophomore season. Wood eventually worked her way into the starting lineup, and was a starter last season.
“Hannah’s a three-year starter and Savanna’s been on the varsity, she’s a junior now, she’s starting her second full season. A lot of our stuff runs through those two. Now saying that, they are two super girls who are unselfish. They know we need points out of them, but they are so very loyal to the team and do a good job of getting everybody involved.”
The Pioneers will likely be a guard-oriented team since just three players stand 5-foot-9 or taller. Tasha Wilson (5-9), Danielle Welsh (5-10) and Margolis (5-10) are the tallest players on the team.
The rest of the roster is loaded with guards. Jenna Woods (5-7), and Clare Harris (5-8), who is up from the junior varsity from last season, are the tallest. Tori Derrick (5-5), Ana Makarova (5-4) and Mountain City (Tenn.) transfer Caitlin Westphal (5-5) are in the backcourt.
“We want to put pressure on the defense from free throw line to free throw line,” Anderson said. “We want to push the ball between the free throw lines as quickly as we can push it, but with that said, we’re not going to take the first shot that’s available unless it’s a layup.  We want to find that person on defense who is jogging back and maybe out run them and make a layup.”
Watauga faces a tough early-season schedule. Watauga hosts Wilkes Central, the state 2-A runner-up, on Nov. 27. Wilkes Central went through some heavy graduation, but still poses a threat to the Pioneers.
Watauga also hosts rival Ashe County on Nov. 3, and then plays at longtime 4-A power McDowell on Dec. 4, and hosts the Titans on Dec. 11.
“I love playing McDowell,” Anderson said. “They always play well and they’re well-coached. “It’s been three years since we’ve seen them.”

No. Name    Pos.    Ht.    Class
1. Jenna Woods    G    5-7    Sr.
2. Savanna Wood    G    5-6    Jr.
3. Tori Derrick    G    5-5    Jr.
5. Haleigh Wallace    G    5-3    So.
10. Caitlin Westphal    G    5-5    Sr.
12. Hannah Margolis    G/F    5-10    Sr.
13. Clare Harris    G    5-8    So.
15. Kaelin McNeill    F    5-10    Jr.
21. Ana Makarova    G    5-4    Sr.
23. Tasha Wilson    F    5-9    Sr.
33. Danielle Welsh    F    5-10    Sr.

Watauga's schedule
Date    Opponent
Nov. 19    AVERY
Nov. 23/24    JV tournament at Ashe
Nov. 27    WILKES CENTRAL
Nov. 30    ASHE COUNTY
Dec. 4    at McDowell
Dec. 7    at Avery
Dec. 11    MCDOWELL
Dec. 18    *at Fred T. Foard
Dec. 20    WEST CALDWELL
Dec. 27/28    Alleghany
Christmas tournament
Jan 4.     *HICKORY
Jan. 8    at Wilkes Central
Jan. 9    at Ashe
Jan. 11    *at Alex.  Central
Jan. 15.    *at So. Caldwell
Jan. 18    *at Hibriten
Jan. 22    *ST STEPHENS
Jan. 25    *FRED T. FOARD
Jan. 29    *at Hickory
Feb. 5    *ALEX. CENTRAL
Feb. 8    *SOUTH CALDWELL
Feb. 12    *HIBRITEN
    (Senior Night)
Feb. 15    *at St. Stephens
*Denotes Northwestern Conference game
Schedule also includes
junior varsity. Girls’ JVs begins at 4, followed by the boys’ JV, girls’ varsity and boys’ varsity.