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N.C. Senior Games 3-on-3 Basketball Champs, High Country Mountaineers To Compete for U.S. Title in Minnesota

The members of the High Country Mountaineers – Gregory Reck, John Spagnolo, Kinney Baughman and Ray Karaus – won the N.C. Senior Games 3-on-3 basketball championship. They will compete for the national championship in Minnesota next July.


By Jesse Wood

Oct. 24, 2014. The High Country Mountaineers featuring Kinney Baughman, Gregory Reck, Ray Karaus and John Spagnolo won the N.C. Senior Games 3-on-3 basketball tournament for the 60+ age division and will compete for a national title in Minnesota next July.

The tournament was held in Greenville last weekend, when the Mountaineers beat the Pinehurst team for the state championship to go 5-0 for the weekend.

“We didn’t need the car to drive back home, we were so pumped … I couldn’t sleep before the tournament, and I haven’t slept since we won,” Baughman said. “Part of what made this one so sweet is we had a really disappointing tournament last year.”

Baughman said that in the prior year, the team had high hopes to win the state championship.

“We won two straight games, and then we got into the dogfight of our lives,” Baughman said.

That game in 2013 featured five overtimes. While the Mountaineers won that game, it took everything they had and nothing else was left in the tank for its fourth matchup. The Mountaineers ended up losing to the team that won it all in 2013.

But the past is the past, and the future looks bright for this bunch.

“It was just a solid performance. We all, everybody, elevated our game for this tournament, and everybody played so well. I couldn’t be prouder of the team,” Baughman said. “I’ve been on a lot of teams, and sometimes people just fit together and work together. Everybody found their role and played it to perfection. The reason we won is we made no mistakes, and we had the toughest defense of anybody out there.”

Baughman added that the team’s motto was “play defense, and the offense will take care of itself.” The other rule was to grab every rebound.

Baughman played for the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the early ‘70s, and for more than three decades held the free throw percentage record for the Southern Conference until the shot minimum rule was changed.

Baughman said that Reck scored the most points per minute played in the tournament.

“He’s just a great shooter, and when he gets in the game, we feed him and he just doesn’t miss,” Baughman said.

The oldest on the team is Reck. He’s 68 years old, which Baughman said makes Reck’s shooting ability all that more impressive.

Spagnolo’s son, Tommy, plays for the Appalachian State Mountaineers, and the elder Spagnolo played on a high school state championship in Pennsylvania. Spagnolo was psyched to have won is second state championship.

Karaus coached the Watauga High School basketball team years ago. Baughman added that Karaus was also a coach at Oak Hill Academy, which is one of the premiere high schools in the nation that churns out basketball stars each year. For example, Kevin Durant, Jerry Stackhouse, Carmelo Anthony, Ty Lawson and Rajon Rondo all played for the high school in Virginia.

“Ray’s solid floor leadership was just great,” Baughman said. “He’s just a fundamentally sound player. He’s our point guard and controlled the game.”

Started in 1983, the N.C. Senior Games was created to promote health and wellness for people 50 years or “better.” Today more than 60,000 people participate in 53 local games across the 100 counties in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Senior Games website. The sports range from archery and track-and-field to badminton and basketball.

The Watauga County Parks and Recreation is the sponsoring agency for teams and athletes in Avery, Ashe, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey counties.

Baughman gave props and hat tip to Stephen Poulos, director of the Watauga County Parks and Recreation, and Holly Gates, athletic director for Watauga County Parks and Recreation.

“Steve and Holly do a great job for the games. It’s well organized,” Baughman said, adding that he knows of a runner in Greensboro that competes in the local games in the High Country because it’s run so much better than the games down the mountain.

To see results from the 2014 N.C. Senior Games, click here.

For more information about the N.C. Senior Games, click here. http://www.ncseniorgames.org/