Watauga girls roll to easy victory over Eagles
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga won its second straight game with a 72-57 nonleague victory over Wilkes Central at Lentz-Eggers Gym Wednesday, giving the Pioneers two straight victories in as many days. Watauga beat St. Stephens 37-36 on Tuesday.
Watauga (2-7) also stopped a four-game losing streak to Wilkes Central (4-3), which beat the Pioneers 60-47 on Nov. 26 in Wilkes County.
That would not be the case Wednesday. The Pioneers outscored the Eagles 44-29 in the second half to pull away for the win.
"We attacked and we continued to attack," Watauga coach Klay Anderson said. "It was a quality win for our program against an extremely good Wilkes Central team. I'm obviously proud of what we did."
Watauga made an adjustment to its starting lineup when Savanna Wood returned. Wood handled the point guard duties, which allowed Ryan Loflin to return to her shooting guard position.
Loflin responded Wednesday by scoring a career-high 26 points. Her repeated drives to the basket allowed her to get fouled, which led to her making 10-of-13 free throws.
Loflin also made eight baskets, all two-pointers and several off layups, from the field.
"We changed things," Loflin said. "We changed the defense up and put Savanna at the point guard, so we changed things up and we stepped up our defense, too."
Watauga's 72 points were the most the Pioneers, who averaged 35.9 points per game before Wednesday, have scored all season. The Pioneers had three players -- Wood, Tori Derrick and Clare Harris -- score 12 points each. It was the first time all season Watauga had four players score in double digits.
Watauga helped itself by making 23-of-28 from the foul line. Wood was 5-of-6, Brooklin Carroll made 3-of-4 and both Harris and Kaelin McNeill made both of their attempts.
Loflin credited simply taking care of the basketball and being unselfish with it as reasons for Watauga's success offensively.
"Our free throw percentage was really good," Loflin said. "We had a lot of assists from everyone. We made good passes and we didn't turn the ball over nearly as much as we used to."
Anderson said a coaching staff meeting following the Pioneers' loss at Ashe County on Dec. 13 got the coaches thinking about any possible changes that could be made to get the most out of each player.
One of the changes dealt with the defense. Wednesday night, Watauga's 2-3 zone slowed down Wilkes Central's offense. Amber Godfrey led the Eagles with 13 points, while Laken Blackburn added 12.
Taylor Matson added seven points. No other Eagle scored more than six.
Another decision the coaches made was having Wood handle more point guard responsibilities and moving Loflin to the wing.
"For two games now, (Loflin) has exploded," Anderson said. "She has created from the wing. For whatever reason, she's not thinking as much any more. When you don't think, you can play better."
Loflin's defense also played a part in Watauga's answer to a 9-1 Wilkes Central run that closed the Pioneers' lead to 53-48 in the fourth quarter. Loflin made two foul sots, McNeill had a steal, and then Loflin had three steals that sparked a 13-2 run that put the Pioneers in front 65-50 with 2:42 left in the game.
Watauga scored on seven of its eight possessions during the run, three that were fueled by Watauga steals. Loflin finished with eight steals overall.
Wilkes Central never recovered.
"I'll be honest, I thought we stole one from St. Stephens," Anderson said. "Saint left some points at the (foul) line and we made the final shot. But that that did was it gave us confidence and it made the girls buy into what we are selling them a bit more than they were. Tonight they were asking questions and they were in this game all the way to the finish whether they were on the floor or on the bench. This was a total team effort. We didn't sneak away here. We put the run together and put the game away."
Watauga won't play again until the Colvard Oil Tournament in Ashe County on Dec. 27-28.