The Watauga High junior varsity boys basketball team defeated Cloudland, TN, 47-36 in championship game of the Dr. Pepper/Miller Insurance Tournament in West Jefferson, N.C.
Cloudland whittled down a 16-point fourth quarter lead and got within nine points. But the Poineers (3-0), led by Caleb Bryson who buried some clutch free throws down the stretch, sealed the win and the tournament championship.
"I was proud of how Caleb stepped up and knocked down those last free throws in a very high pressure situation," WHS coach Jerry Moretz said. "He did a good job all night handling Cloudland's full court pressure and I could tell he wanted to ball in his hands down the stretch."
Zach Valet, Utah Jones, and Byrson combined to hit 7 of 8 free throws at the end of the game to take any hope of a comeback away from Cloudland.
Cloudland led the Pioneers 7-4 late in the 1st quarter before the Pioneers went on a 6-0 run to end the quarter. Jones hit a three as time expired to give the Pioneers the lead. The second quarter was back and forth with Watauga holding a slim 20-18 lead at the intermission.
The Pioneers turned up their defensive pressure and held Cloudland to just three points in the third quarter. In turn, the Pioneers opened up a commanding 11-point lead at 32-21. "That was really the difference in the game," Moretz said. "We made some adjustments at half and the players really took them to heart. We had to do a much better job rebounding and not giving up second chances. We also had to work the ball more so our post players could get more involved. It was a team effort for sure.
"I thought (Michael) Ebaugh gave us a lift in that area. I told him he had to be a workhorse on the boards and he came in late in the third and early in the fourth and did just that. Matt (Tyndall) and Hunter Shore drew a tough defensive assignment for the second night in a row and really did a marvelous job on one of the best 3 point shooters I have ever seen. The whole team did a great job defending the 3-ball but those two men in particular did an outstanding job."
A combination of Tyndall and Hunter Shore held Logan Russell of Cloudland to 13 points on the night. The previous night against Ashe, Russell lite up the scoreboard. Ebaugh grabbed six rebounds in that time and converted two of those in to four huge points for the Pioneers.
"This is the first time all year I truly feel the players bought in to the fact that the five players on the floor are an extension of everyone on the team." Moretz said. "We are what we are because they work so hard against each other in practice. Very proud of all 14 of these young men."
Pioneers played without Sophomore TJ Poulos who is still nursing a sprained ankle. Poulos suffered the injury during the third quarter of Friday night's game against Hampton, TN.
Aaron Dobbins was named tournament's Most Valuable Player. Tyndall and Jones were named to the all-tournament from Watauga.
NOTES: The WHS JV boys have won 28 consecutive games.....The JV girls lost to Ashe County 24-18 in the finals. Ryan Loflin led WHS with eight points; Brooklin Carroll had six points. Both players were named to the all-tournament team.
SCORE BY QUARTER 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
Watauga 10 10 12 15 - 47
Cloudland 7 11 3 15 - 36
WHS Leading Scorers:
Aaron Dobbins 12
Utah Jones 11
Matt Tyndall 6