DeWayne Mackey decided to take matters into his own hands Monday night. The Watauga High senior has seen his share of gut-grinding games this season. And Monday night state playoff opener against
East Gaston was no different. But despite all the anxious moments, Mackey flashed that wonderful smile of his, and the end result, the Pioneers marched their way into the second round of the state playoffs.
WHS (14-10), thanks to a team-high 21 points from Mackey, defeated East Gaston 77-75 in overtime (their sixth overtime game this season) in the opening round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 4A State Playoffs at Lentz-Eggers Gym. Mackey, who scored 15 of his points in the second half and the overtime period combined, won the game with a pair of free throws with 1.6 seconds left in the overtime session.
"I saw something in DeWayne tonight, I haven't seen in a point guard dating back to my first year with Clayton Blust (in 2004-05)," said WHS coach Rob Sanders, now in his ninth season. "He was in total control of the game. No matter what happened, he looked at me, and gave me that look of assurance that we weren't going to lose this game."
And it was a great defensive play by Mackey with time running out in the first overtime with the score tied at 75 that saved the day. Jawantee Olds of the Warriors (11-14) made a steal at the time line and blew up the floor on a two-on-one break for what seemed to be an easy layup.
But somehow, some way, Mackey disrupted the play by forcing Olds to alter his shot. The end result, Mackey came up with the rebound and was fouled by Elijah Gore of the Warriors as he went went crashing to the floor with 1.6 seconds left to play.
"It was one of those moments when you start thinking, 'oh no'", Sanders said. "And immediately after the 'oh no', its, 'oh yes'. It was the play of the game. He just stepped up and made a big play for us with the game on the line. And he buried the game-winning free throws to seal the deal."
The win also snapped a three-game, post-season losing streak for the Pioneers. It was WHS' first playoff win since beating Garinger at the old Lentz-Eggers Gym in 2009-10. The Pioneers reached the sectional finals that year and lost to West Charlotte.
Monday's win moves WHS into a second-round home game against Mallard Creek. The Mavericks (19-8), a No.4 seed from the I-Meck Conference and a No.13 seed overall, defeated Sun Valley, the No.4 seed, 51-41 on the road Monday night.
Desean Murray and Gore paced the Warriors, who finished the season on a four-game losing streak. With his team trailing 54-49 early in the fourth quarter, Murray, who finished with a game-high 36 points, scored on a slam dunk and a conventional three-point play to tie the game at 54 with 5:43 to play.
The Pioneers jumped back on top 56-55 thanks to Collin Augustine, who was stellar off the bench with eight points and 11 rebounds. But East Gaston regained the lead 62-60 on a three by Murray with 1:29 left in regulation time.
But a rebound by Augustine triggered a transition basket as Ben Margolis found Cameron Baker, who was breaking for the net. He scored the game-tying basket with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Gore had a chance to win the game in regulation time for the Warriors, but he missed a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds left.
"Missing those free throws really hurt," said East Gaston coach Eugene Farrar. "He makes at least on of those, we could have won the game. But it just didn't work in our favor. We made too many mistakes. We're young, and we'll learn from this."
Jay Harrill took over from there and backboned WHS to a five point lead, thanks to a pair of threes, in the extra session. And the game looked to be in hand with WHS on top 75-69 with less than a minute to play. But a pair of threes by Gore, one with 36 seconds left, the other with 12 seconds remaining, that tied the game. It also set the stage for Mackey's heroic finish.
Gore finished with 17 points in the loss. WHS had four players in double figures. Baker finished with 17 points, six rebounds, and four steals; Ben Howser had 13 points, five boards and four steals; Margolis finished with ten points, six rebounds and seven assists. Mackey also had five assists.
NOTES: The Pioneers are 3-3 in overtime games this season.....The Pioneers, who went 20 years without winning a post-season game (1989-2008), have won four state playoff games in a five year span.
WATAUGA 77, EAST GASTON 75 (OT)
Score by Periods 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1OT Total
East Gaston 16 20 11 15 13 - 75
Watauga 18 17 15 12 15 - 77
EGHS: GORE 17, PRICE 3, CRANE 2, EMSLEY 4, J.LEWIS 3, MURRAY 36, OLDS 10. FG: 20, 3FG: 9, FT: 8-15.
THREE-POINTERS: GORE 3, MURRAY 3, OLDS 2, PRICE.
WHS: HARRILL 8, AUGUSTINE 8 (11 REBOUNDS), MARGOLIS 10 (6 REBOUNDS, 7 ASSISTS), BAKER 17 (6 REBOUNDS, 4 STEALS), HOWSER 13 (5 REBOUNDS, 4 STEALS), MACKEY 21 (5 ASSISTS). FG: 23, 3FG: 7, FT: 10-17.
THREE-POINTERS: HARRILL 2, MARGOLIS 2, HOWSER 2, MACKEY.
NORTHWESTERN 3A/4A CONFERENCE
WATAUGA 59, EAST GASTON 45
HICKORY 78, ASHBROOK 53
R.S. CENTRAL 68, FRED T. FOARD 58
CREST 50, HIBRITEN 48
ALEXANDER CENTRAL 58, HOPEWELL 40
WATAUGA 77, EAST GASTON 75 (OT)
HICKORY 67, ST. STEPHENS 59 (OT)
FRED T. FOARD 89, PATTON 48
GARINGER 52, SOUTH CALDWELL 49
GIRLS: SURRY CENTRAL 87, ASHE COUNTY 53
BOYS: TRINITY 75, ASHE COUNTY 33
GIRLS: AVERY 60, ROSMAN 48
BOYS: AVERY 75, CHEROKEE 64
Photo Courtesy: Ben Howser, Bill Sheffield