By Ethan Woodhouse
Dec. 1, 2012. The Watauga High School men’s and women’s basketball teams both improved to 3-0 on the season Friday night by defeating their crosstown rivals, the Ashe High Huskies.
The men wasted no time, jumping out to a 15-3 first quarter lead in route to blowing the Huskies out, 55-40. The woman waited til the second half to start putting distance between themselves and the Lady Huskies. At the end of the night they too were victorious, 47-37.
The Watauga men put 13 points on the board behind swarming defensive, reliable foul shooting and a methodical offense before forward Zach Lawrence scored Ashe’s first point, a free throw near the one-minute mark.
“Our goal was to come right out from the tip and try to force as many run-out points as we could, develop a bit of a lead and not let them hang around,” Watauga Head Coach Rob Sanders said.
And develop a lead they did. Watauga took advantage of five early turnovers from the Huskies to establish a rapid tempo.
“Our guys came out and executed to just about perfection for the first four or five minutes,” Sanders added.
The second quarter saw little change from the first. The Pioneer’s swarming, pseudo 2-3 zone frequently caught the inexperienced Husky backcourt in traps that led to easy buckets. By half, the lead ballooned to 29-9. The Huskies did themselves no favors by shooting 3-12 from the free throw line, equaling their field goal total from the half. Watauga’s size in the front court preventing anything resembling an easy layup and their sweltering perimeter defense made it impossible to set up much offense.
Watauga came out in the second half and scored the first eight points, erasing any hope for a Husky comeback. Ashe did eventually put together a 7-0 run of their own, but it was too little, too late. A pair of missed dunks by forward Cam Baker, one coming up just short and the other being prevented by a hard foul to the back, kept the Pioneer faithful from blowing the roof off the gym. Point guard DeWayne Mackey offset the miscues with a pair of steals and slicing layups.
Three point shooting was one of the few bright spots for the Huskies Friday evening, highlighted by a buzzer beating heave to end the third quarter by Jordan Spell. The Huskies connected on four three pointers, twice that of the Pioneers.
Otherwise, it was Watauga’s night. After sustaining their 20-point lead through the third quarter, the Pioneers took their foot off the gas until the final buzzer sounded. Mackey led the Pioneers with 13 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists. Tyler Sturgill came off the bench and proved to be a force in the post, notching 13 points and grabbed 6 rebounds to go with a pair of blocks.
Starting center Allen Koppenhammer added 10 points and 7 boards for the Pioneers.
“When we play the way we’re capable of playing, I think our depth can be a very big strength for us,” Sanders said. “Our focus is to get better. We gotta get better every game and we’re lucky to this point that we’ve been able to win three basketball games where we have not played flawless basketball.”
Devan Sheets came off the bench to lead Ashe with 8 points and 3 rebounds.
Earlier in the evening, the women’s match proved to be less one-sided.
The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with Ashe scoring the game’s first four points, Watauga rattling off nine straight of their own and Ashe closing the quarter on another 4-0 run. On offense, Watauga kept their composure, often for extended periods of time. Many possessions saw as many as eight or nine passes made before a shot was taken, in an effort to pick away at Ashe’s finicky defense.
As the second quarter got underway, Watauga Senior Hannah Margolis made her way through the lane for a pair of layups that seemed to give the Pioneers a bit of breathing room. But Ashe switched up to a trapping 1-3-1 zone that temporarily disrupted Margolis and the Pioneer’s flow.
“We are experienced in the backcourt,” Head Coach Klay Anderson said. “It’s not that we did everything perfect, but we’ve seen a lot of those types of defenses before and so we’re able to maintain our composure and we are able to understand how the defense works, which is the most important thing.”
Despite the best efforts of Margolis and guard Clare Harris, Ashe managed to keep it close in the first half, and the teams entered the locker room separated by a field goal, 23-21.
As the third quarter began, Ashe took a page out of Watauga’s diligent offensive playbook. One Ashe possession, sustained through a couple offensive rebounds, lasted nearly a whole minute.
Though Ashe tried to adjust offensively, the third quarter belonged to Margolis. Of the nine points Watauga scored in the quarter, she contributed seven of them and assisted on the only other basket, a layup to guard Tori Derrick. Watauga forged a seven point lead and would not look back.
The Lady Huskies began full court pressing as the fourth quarter began, but Margolis was undeterred. She assisted on a three point bucket by Harris, and the lead never dropped back below eight. Guard Savanna Wood nailed four free throws in the waning minutes to finish off the Lady Huskies.
Margolis finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.”She’s our leader,” Anderson said. “She’s one of our three captains. This year we’ve been hit with injuries to our wings and she’s had to move back to the point guard and she’s doing such a fantastic job.”
Harris chipped in 14 points off the bench, including a pair of three balls. While forwards Kaelin McNeill and Danielle Welsh weren’t dropping buckets, they were dominating the boards.
“Kaelin McNeill, she’s leading our team right now, her and Hannah Margolis together, in rebounds,” Anderson added. “She pulled down a couple huge ones at the end.” McNeill finished with 12 boards and Welsh had eight. Wood also had 10 points for the Lady Pioneers.
Watauga travels to McDowell on Dec. 4 in an effort to drive their records to 4-0.