The overall record may not be impressive, but the Watauga High girl's basketball team finds itself in a three-way tie for first place in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference with Hickory and South Caldwell.
The Pioneers (4-8 overall; 2-0 NW3A/4A) kept pace with those heavyweights by knocking off Fred T. Foard 45-29 Friday night at Copus Gymnasium
in Newton, N.C. The win also snapped a personal two-game losing streak against the Tigers.
WHS led all the way. The Pioneers jumped out to an 11-0 lead, and were never seriously challenged by the Tigers (1-9; 0-2), who lost for the seventh consecutive time. Savanna Wood backboned the Pioneers with a game-high 16 points, 15 of those in the first half.
"I don't care how it looks, we won tonight and we're 2-0 in the league," said WHS coach Klay Anderson. "We maintained our share of first place in the conference. Savanna really carried us in the first half, but when you have a player score like she did in the first half, the rest of the team has a tendency to just stand around. That's why we were so stagnant in the second half."
Wood's three ball, her third of the game, gave the Pioneers a commanding 32-15 halftime lead. But as impressive as WHS looked in the first half, the Pioneers looked just as anemic in the second half.
The Pioneers mustered just 23 points in the second half, including four in the third quarter. That allowed the Tigers to cut the lead to nine point. A bucket by Kayla Whitworth, Foard's only returning starter from last season, made it 36-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Pioneers buckled down defensively and held the Tigers to a field goal in the final stanza. Ryan Loflin, who finally cracked the scoring column in the fourth quarter, squelched any hopes the Tigers may have had concerning a dramatic comeback.
She nailed a layup and made a pair of free throws with 4:02 left to play that gave WHS a 40-27 lead.
"I think (Foard) coach (Ernie) Wilson would agree with me that both teams played very sloppy in the second half," Anderson said. "Both teams just threw the ball away, and we both missed a lot of shots. It wasn't pretty, but we maintained the lead, and we put it away with a strong defensive effort in the fourth quarter. And that's how you win games, especially on the road in conference play, with a strong defensive effort."
And Friday night's win sets up a huge game Tuesday night at Freedom. It's WHS's first trip to Morganton since the 2008-09 season. And the Pioneers haven't beaten the Patriots on the road since the 1998-99 season (WHS' only win at Freedom in school history).
"We haven't seen Freedom in forever," Anderson said. "They have a great program and (coach) Amber (Fox) does a great job. But our girls don't know anything about them, and they don't know much about us. We're going in as a first-place team. We just have go in there and play our game."
Tori Derrick of the Pioneers finished with seven points; Kaelin McNeill had six. Whitworth led the Tigers with eight points.
WHS travels to Freedom Tuesday night. The Patriots, who lost 60-49 to Hickory Friday night, are currently 6-5 ovearll, 1-1 in league play. Coverage begins at 6:05 p.m. on AM 1450, WATA and GoBlueridge.net.
WATAUGA 45, FRED T. FOARD 29
SCORE BY PERIODS 1 2 3 4 TOTAL
WATAUGA 15 17 4 9 - 45
FOARD 8 7 12 2 - 29
WHS: WOOD 16, DERRICK 7, CARROLL 5, LOFLIN 4, FARTHING 3, McNEILL 6, BROWN 4. FG: 13, 3, FT: 10-17.
FTF: NORMAN 2, WARFIELD 4, SHULL 2, GETTYS 4, SETZER 3, WHITENER 4, WHITWORTH 8, BILINGTON 2. FG: 12, FT: 5-14.
FOARD BOYS 54, WHS 46
The Watauga High boy's basketball team, which looked nearly invincible last weekend at the Colvard Oil Holiday Classic, struggled offensively Friday night against Fred T. Foard at Copus Gymnasium in Newton, N.C.
The Tigers, thanks to a seven-point spurt to close out the first half, knocked off WHS 54-46, handing the Pioneers (9-3 ovearll; 0-2 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference) their second straight loss in league play. A three ball by Jeff Mahnke and a rare four-point play by Trey Bliss turned a one-point lead into a 27-19 advantage at hafltime.
"That run really hurt us," said WHS coach Rob Sanders. "It was a tight game up to that point, but give Foard credit. They hit a couple of big shots just before halftime and it put us behind. We just couldn't come back from that run."
WHS never led, but forged a couple of ties, the last one at 17-17 on a bucket by Jay Harrill with 2:44 left in the second quarter. But from that point on, the Tigers (6-5; 1-1) were in total control.
Nolan Whitener put the Tigers on his back in the third quarter. Leading 28-22 with 4:14 left, Whitener stepped it up by scoring six of Foard's next seven points. His three ball gave the Tigers an 11-point advantage; his steal and ensuing layup gave the Tigers a commanding 37-23 lead.
"That's the kind of team we've had this year," said Foard coach Rob Bliss, who has beaten WHS four consecutive times. "Somebody's always stepping up and making the big play, or the big shot for us. We got contributions from a lot of folks tonight."
Devin Reinhart took his turn jabbing the Pioneers as he buried consecutive threes in the fourth quarter. His final dagger with 6:07 left to play gave the Tigers a 47-31 lead, their largest lead of the game. The Pioneers never got any closer than the final score.
"We were our own worst enemy tonight," Sanders said. "Our scoring was inconsistent. We never got in a groove. We never put a solid run together. But a lot of the credit goes to Foard. We had some looks, but we couldn't finish, and they limited our chances underneath. Matt (Lambert) really struggled tonight. I felt if he could have nailed just one shot, it would get him started, but it never happened."
Lambert, who had three steals, battled foul trouble most of the night and didn't score. Harrill led WHS with 15 points and 16 rebounds. He buried a pair of threes down the stretch. His last one made it 54-46 with less than a minute to play, but WHS never got any closer.
"And when he starts shooting like that, you hope there's a minute or two left in the game," Sanders said. "But the point is we just didn't get it done tonight, and now we're two games down in the league standings. And it doesn't get any easier with Freedom coming up on the schedule."
The Pioneers travel to Freedom Tuesday night, their first trip to Morganton since the 2008-09 season. But the Pioneers, under Sanders' guidence picked up a pair of wins in that building when these schools were members of the old Northwestern 4A Conference. The Patriots (11-0; 2-0), who are currently undefeated, nipped Hickory 67-63 Friday night at Craft Gymnasium in Hickory.
"Freedom is always at least ten points better when their at home," Sanders said. "But we can't focus on that. We just have to go in there and play well. It's gut-check time for this team, and we've got to respond."
Cameron Baker of the Pioneers, who like Lambert battled foul trouble most of the night, finished with ten points and seven rebounds; Utah Jones came off the bench and poured in nine points. Ketty Cameron led the Tigers with 13 points; Bliss finished with ten points; Whitener had eight.
The Pioneers return home to play Hibriten next Friday night. Coverage from Morganton Tuesday night begins at 6:05 p.m. on AM 1450, WATA and GoBlueridge.net.
FRED T. FOARD 54, WATAUGA 46
SCORE BY PERIODS 1 2 3 4 TOTAL
WATAUGA 9 10 8 19 - 46
FOARD 14 13 10 17 - 54
WHS: HARRILL 15 (16 REBOUNDS), EGGERS 3, GAILES 2, POULOS 7, JONES 9, BAKER 10 (7 REBOUNDS). FG: 12, 3FG: 4, FT: 10-15.
FTF: JOHNSON 6, BLISS 10, CAMERON 13, TEAGUE 1, RIENHART 7, MAHNKE 4, T.WIGNINGTON 5, WHITENER 8. FG: 10, 3FG: 7, FT: 13-25.
Hickory 60, Freedom 49
St. Stephens 55, Hibriten 26
South Caldwell 60, Patton 45
Watauga 45, Fred T. Foard 29
Freedom 67, Hickory 63
Hibriten 66, St. Stephens 63
Patton 80, South Caldwell 65
Fred T. Foard 54, Watauga 46
(BOYS AND GIRLS)
WATAUGA @ FREEDOM
SOUTH CALDWELL @ HICKORY
HIBRITEN @ FRED T.FOARD
PATTON @ ST. STEPHENS
NORTHWESTERN 3A/4A CONFERENCE STANDINGS
HICKORY 2-0; 9-0
SOUTH CALDWELL 2-0; 9-3
WATAUGA 2-0; 4-8
FREEDOM 1-1; 6-5
ST. STEPHENS 1-1; 6-6
PATTON 0-2; 4-7
HIBRITEN 0-2; 1-8
FRED T. FOARD 0-2; 1-9
FREEDOM 2-0; 11-0
HIBRITEN 2-0; 6-2
PATTON 2-0; 8-3
ST. STEPHENS 1-1; 9-3
FRED T. FOARD 1-1; 6-5
WATAUGA 0-2; 9-3
HICKORY 0-2; 1-8
SOUTH CALDWELL 0-2; 1-10
Photo Courtesy: Savanna Wood, WHS Athletics