It's a new season and the Watuaga High girl's basketball team has some mighty big shoes to fill. The big void concerns the loss of Hannah Margolis, who was WHS' (0-1) all-purpose player last season.
Well, the Pioneers felt the growing pains Tuesday night in a 60-47 loss to Wilkes Central in Moravian Falls, N.C., in the season opener for both teams. It's WHS' fourth consecutive loss on that floor. They haven't beaten Wilkes Central on that floor since January of 2009.
The Eagles (1-0) methodically pulled away early in the second quarter. Leading 15-7, the Eagles scored six consecutive points, extending their advantage to 14 points at 21-7. Freshman Kailey McMeal, who led the Eagles with 15 points in her varsity debut, capped things off with a bucket that gave Wilkes Central a commanding 28-12 lead with 2:08 left in the first half.
"I'm looking for people who are going to be leaders," said WHS coach Klay Anderson. "We've got to have a little more heart, and we've got to have it early. We stood around tonight waiting for someone to step up. I'm proud of my girls and what they did in the majority of the game. But we have to stop looking around. Hannah Margolis is not walking through that door."
The Eagles did the bulk of their damage inside. Laken Blackburn, Hannah Williams and McMeal gave WHS fits down low. That trio combined for 33 points.
"We had a tough night," Anderson said. "We just never found our rhythm offensively. We missed a lot of close in shots. In turn they made their shots inside. I'm looking for that post player that can get the job done down low. We've got some girls that can fill that role and finish. It's just a matter of gaining confidence.
"But give (Wilkes Central coach) Scott (Waugh) and his girls a lot of credit. They forced the issue inside. We've just got to get better and we will next Tuesday night (against Avery)."
The lead grew to 20 points at 35-15 early in the third quarter and WHS never got any closer than 11. Trailing 50-39 with 3:06 left to play, the Eagles pulled away for good thanks to Amber Godfrey (who transferred in from California), who nailed six consecutive free throws. Godfrey finished with 12 points.
The Eagles had three players in double figures. Blackburn finished with ten points. Savanna Wood led WHS with 19. Ryan Loflin had eight points and four rebounds; Kaelin McNeill finished with five points, 13 rebounds and two steals.
"(Wilkes Central) is tough to defend," Anderson said. "Their guards dribble penetrate real well, and they're real good at finding the open player. They made a lot of inside shots early, and we missed a lot of shots early. We got in a hole and couldn't dig out of it."
The Pioneers will play their home opener against Avery next Tuesday night, December 3, at Lentz-Eggers Gym.
NOTES: The WHS junior varsity girls defeated Wilkes Central, 33-24. Karson Hamrick led the Pioneers with 11 points. Olivia Williamson and Sydney Farthing each had five points apiece.
WILKES CENTRAL 60, WATAUGA 47
SCORE BY PERIODS 1 2 3 4 TOTAL
WATAUGA 5 10 11 21 - 47
WILKES CENTRAL 12 21 10 17 - 60
WHS: WOOD 19, DERRICK 4, HARRIS 6, LOFLIN 8 (4 REBOUNDS), McNEILL 5 (13 REBOUNDS, 2 STEALS), BROWN 3, JONES 2. FG: 11, 3FG: 4, FT: 13-24.
WILKES CENTRAL: McMEAL 15, GODFREY 12, BLACKBURN 10, WILLIAMS 8, GRAHAM 4, McCUMBER 4, KILBY 4, GIBBS 3. FG: 18, 3FG: 3, FT: 15-24.