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Baker Backbones WHS To Title PDF Print
Written by Mike Kelly   
Sunday, 29 December 2013 16:35

One thing is for sure. When Watauga High senior Cameron Baker makes up his mind, there's no changing it. And the Hibriten High boy's basketball team found that out firsthand Saturday night.

With his team trailing 48-47 with a little more than five minutes left to play, Baker took matters into his own hands. He proceeded to score nine consecutive points that gave WHS (9-2) an eight-point lead with 3:43 to play. He closed out the run with a three ball that made it, 56-48.

That effort put the Pioneers in complete control and they went on to win the Colvard Oil Holiday Classic 65-52 in West Jefferson, N.C.

Baker, who finished with a game-high 21 points, nine rebounds, and four steals, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and the Pioneers won this tournament for the first time since 1998.

"I read about that on," Baker said. "It's been a while. Man, that's a long time ago. I told our guys before the game and again at halftime, 'that we were going to come out with the highest level of intensity we have.' We wanted to show these (Hibriten, a Northwestern 3A/4A Conference opponent) that we're the top team in the conference. We didn't want to look like a bluff to these guys. We wanted to show them that we're a very good basketball team."

Baker gave Hibriten (5-2) a glimpse of his talents near the end of the first half. Baker snapped a 25-25 tie as he ignited a 9-0 run by scoring six consecutive points, giving the Pioneers a 34-25 halftime lead.

"We built our halftime lead with our defensive intensity," WHS coach Rob Sanders said. "Basketball is a game of runs, and we knew Hibriten wasn't going to go away. And we needed someone to step up when the game was on the line, and Cameron did just that. He's a senior, and he's been through games like this. He just stepped it up and took over."

"Coach Sanders told me after we lost to Mallard Creek in the second round of the state playoffs last year, that he wanted me to be more aggressive my senior year," Baker said. "I was the only returning starter, and I was the guy he was counting on to be a leader for this group. I just told our guys that we had to pick it up in the fourth quarter. We had to weather that bad stretch we went through to start the second half."

And the Pioneers, who looked very sharp at the end of the first half, looked just the opposite to start the second half. In turn, the Panthers went on a 13-3 run and grabbed their first lead of the game at 38-37 on a floater by Conner Caldwell.

But WHS jumped back on top, 39-38, thanks to a layup by Utah Jones, an all-tournament selection, who came off the bench and poured in 11 points. WHS eventually led by five, 43-38, on a pair of free throws by Baker with 1:50 left in the third quarter.

But the Panthers kept chipping away and eventually took the lead, 46-45, on a three ball by Kel Berry with 7:34 left to play. A pull-up jumper by sophomore Bishop Walton gave Hibriten its final lead at 48-47, setting the stage for Bakers heroic run.

"Things like that lull we went through in the third quarter just happen," Baker said. "It's basketball. You get hot, and you can't miss. But there's also times, you shots just won't go in, and you lose your flow on the floor. We just had to fight through it."

"I felt we were falling apart a little bit," Sanders said. "Anytime you start pointing fingers, it's never a good thing. And we're too good a basketball team to do that. I'm a guy that always goes with my gut, and my gut told me this team needed a good ripping. And they responded."

Jay Harrill, an all-tournament selection, applied the finishing touch with a three ball that gave the Pioneers a nine-point lead with 3:24 left. Harrill finished with 15 points. WHS' lead eventually ballooned to 15 points with less than a minute to play.

Berry and Drake Felder led the Panthers with 14 points apiece; Walton finished with eight points. The Pioneers have beaten Hibriten seven consecutive times.

"This is all ready a special group," Sanders said. "And they've all ready shown that as (junior varsity) and varsity players. Every team wants to leave its mark, and I'm happy more for them that they won this tournament. I hope this is the first of many marks this team will leave for future Pioneers in our program to look back on."

The Pioneers return to NW3A/4A Conference play Friday in Newton against Fred T. Foard. Coverage begins at 6:05 p.m. on AM 1450, WATA and


SCORE BY PERIODS    1    2    3    4    TOTAL

HIBRITEN           17    8   18    9  -  52
WATAUGA            17   17   11   20  -  65




Junior Hallie Brown of the Ashe County High girl's basketball team made the play of the game, and it broke Watauga's back.

With her team trailing 47-45 in the second overtime period, Brown picked up a loose ball in the lane and found Morgan Hudler wide open on the left side. Hudler, who has been a thorn in WHS' side this season, buried a three ball that put the Huskies (6-6) on top to stay.

The end result, the Huskies defeated WHS 55-51 in double overtime in the championship game of the Colvard Oil Holiday Classic. It's the third time Ashe County has beaten WHS (3-8) this season, and the 21st time in the last 23 meetings between the schools.

"It was a great game and give credit to Ashe County," said WHS coach Klay Anderson in a disappointing tone. "They made the plays in the end. They made their free throws and they were a little tougher than us down the stretch. All you can ask for is a chance to win the game. We had a chance and couldn't close it out."

The Pioneers missed six free throws in the second overtime period. They were 9-21 at the foul line for the game. In turn, the Huskies took advantage of that and built their biggest lead at five points. Hudler, who finished with a game-high 19 points and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, scored seven of those points (including a pair of trifectas) in the second overtime period.

Her three ball with 1:07 to play made it 53-49; she made one of two free throws for a 54-49 lead with 34 seconds left. WHS never got any closer than three points the rest of the way.

It was another frustrating loss for the Pioneers, who squandered a nine-point, first-half lead.

"If we take care of business in the fourth quarter, we wouldn't be in this position," Anderson said. "The fact of the matter is, Ashe just outplayed us. We didn't put the game away when we had the lead in the first half, and we lost our offensive intensity as the game wore on. I'm very disappointed with this loss."

The loss also snapped WHS' three-game winning streak, and it denied the Pioneers their first Colvard Oil Holiday title since 1999.

Savanna Wood paced WHS with a team-high 15 points in the loss. Ryan Loflin, who forced the second overtime period by sinking a short-corner jumper with time running out, finished with 12 points. Kaelin McNeill had eight points.

The Pioneers had their chances to win the game. They led 23-15 at halftime, and owned a 38-34 lead with 4:43 left to play. But the Huskies kept it close and finally grabbed their first lead of the game on a bucket by Savannah Brooks with 1:08 left to play. Trailing 41-40, Loflin forced overtime as she nailed a game-tying free throw with one minute left in regulation time.

"(Laura Foster) kids are tougher than my kids are," Anderson said. "I love my players, but when it comes to a competitive fire, (Foster) has a few that are tougher than I have. And that's no knock against my kids. It's just the truth."

Paige Spell of the Huskies finished with 12 points; Brown and Brooks finished with eight points apiece. Wood and McNeill of WHS were named to the all-tournament team.

The Pioneers travel to Fred T. Foard Friday, January 3. Coverage begins at 6:05 p.m. on AM 1450, WATA and


SCORE BY PERIODS    1    2    3    4    10T    2OT    TOTAL

WATAUGA            11   12    9    7     4      6  -   51
ASHE COUNTY         6    9   16   10     4     10  -   55

WOOD 15, DERRICK 2, CARROLL 6, LOFLIN 12, McNEILL 8, JONES 2, FOUTZ 6. FG: 15, 3FG: 4, FT: 9-21.

GRUBB 3, HUDLER 19, SPELL 12, LEE 3, LOPP 2, BROWN 8, BROOKS 8. FG: 13, 3FG: 6, FT: 11-21.

Colvard Oil Holiday Classic

December 27-28, 2012

Varsity Girls Awards

Champion -- Ashe County

Runner-up -- Watauga

MVP – Morgan Hudler - Ashe

All-Tournament – Paige Spell - Ashe

All-Tournament – Savannah Brooks - Ashe

All-Tournament – Savanna Wood - Watauga

All-Tournament – Kaelin McNeill - Watauga

All-Tournament – Alex McRary -- Hibriten

All-Tournament Myesha Hall – North Forsyth

Varsity Boys Awards

Champion -- Watauga

Runner-up -- Hibriten

MVP – Cam Baker - Watauga

All-Tournament -- Utah Jones - Watauga

All-Tournament – Jay Harrill - Watauga

All-Tournament – Drake Felder - Hibriten

All-Tournament – Makaland Thomas - Hibriten

All-Tournament – Cullen Ashley - Ashe

All-Tournament – Tyler Johnson - Forbush

Photo Courtesy: Pioneers Celebrate Championship, WHS Athletics

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