Watauga girls' team trips Panthers
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Even with Keisha Corpening, Hibriten could not solve Watauga in the first round of the Northwestern Conference Tournament Monday.
It’s not like Corpening didn’t try. She scored 26 points, but Watauga claimed a 56-50 victory at Lentz-Eggers Gym. Watauga plays Hickory, at Dave Craft Gym at Hickory High School, Wednesday in the semifinals.
Watauga (11-12) used scoring balance, especially from the 3-point line, to beat the Panthers for the second straight time. Clare Harris scored a career-high 19 points with help from five 3-point baskets.
“She made two in the end when we ran our out-of-bounds play that we got a screen for and that was a big layup,” Mountaineers coach Klay Anderson said. “Everyone had a role in the victory. We knew we needed a team effort to stop a great player and we did that.”
Savanna Wood added 13 points with help of three 3-point baskets. Hannah Margolis also scored 13 points, but went 9-of-13 from the foul line to score the majority of her points.
Watauga held a decided advantage from the free throw line by making 12-of-16. Hibriten (8-16) settled for 3-of-5 shooting from the foul line.
Corpening was out with an ankle injury when Watauga belted Hibriten 58-23 a week ago. No Hibriten player scored over seven points in that game.
Corpening made 10 shots from the field, including three from 3-point range. Courtney Morton added eight points with help from two 3-pointers, but no other Hibriten player scored more than four points.
“She did a lot of damage,” Anderson said. “They had some others step up and make shots, but she played extremely well in the second half while hobbling on her ankle. But we did what we had to do defensively. We kept scoring and made free throws in the end and it’s survive and advance.”
Watauga fell behind 11-8 at the end of the first quarter, but went on a 18-2 run that saw the Pioneers make six 3-point baskets. Harris made three of them, while Wood made the other three.
Harris’ final 3-pointer put the Pioneers in front 26-13 with 2:09 left in the first half. Hibriten countered with a 7-0 run and closed to 26-20 by halftime.
“When you hit six of seven threes in the second quarter, that’s a pretty good night, much less quarter,” Anderson said.
It would not be the first time that Watauga took a big lead on the Panthers, but would not be able to pull away for an easy win. The Pioneers raced out to a 39-24 lead in the third quarter and led 43-33 going into the fourth quarter.
But Hibriten took advantage of poor shooting by the Pioneers and fought back to trail 45-42 early in the fourth quarter. Watauga led 50-47 before getting a key basket from a wide-open Harris off a Margolis inbounds pass with 26 seconds to put the Pioneers up by five.
Corpening drained a 3-point basket with 11.5 seconds left, but Watauga got two foul shots from Wood and from Margolis, the final two with 3.2 seconds left, to seal the win.
Watauga turns its attention to Hickory, which won the NWC regular season championship. The Red Tornadoes beat Watauga 64-39 at Dave Craft Gym in Hickory and 81-38 at Lentz-Eggers Gym.
Hickory’s combination of Yazmen Hannah and Danasia Witherspoon piled up big numbers on the Pioneers. Hannah scored 23 and Witherspoon added 18 points in Hickory’s win at Watauga. In Hickory, Hannah scored 21 and Witherspoon scored 18.
“You play who is next on the schedule, and in this case, you play who is next in the tournament,” Anderson said. “They earned the No. 1 seed, but coach (Barbara) Helms’ toughest job is to convince them that we are going to give them a battle. Our job is to go down there and take it one possession at a time and our job is to make it a game into the second half.”
Watauga girls 56, Hibriten 50
McRary 2 0-2 4, Logan 1 0-0 2, Corpening 10 3-3 26, Greene 1 0-0 2, B. Morton 2 0-0 4, C. Morton 3 0-0 8, Soldati 2 0-0 4, Brown 0 0-0 0, Sanders 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 3-5 50.
Wood 4 2-2 13, Derrick 1 0-0 2, Margolis 2 9-13 13, Harris 7 0-0 19, McNeill 2 0-0 4, Wilson 2 1-1 5, Loflin 0 0-0 0, Makarova 0 0-0 0, Foutz 0 0-0 0, Westphal 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 12-16 56.