The Hibriten High boy's basketball team posted its first win against Watauga in four years Tuesday night. The Panthers (8-9 overall; 4-7 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference), who were victimized twice by Watauga (13-8; 4-7) this season, bested the Pioneers 67-62 in a NW3A/4A Conference game in Lenior, N.C.
The win also snapped an eight-game slide against WHS, which began in the 2010-11 season.
"I didn't realize we had lost that many in a row against them," said HHS coach Chad Keller. "But we finally put four quarters of basketball together against this team. But I never felt comfortable tonight. Even when we were up by 20 (in the second quarter), I knew they were going to make a run at us. (WHS) shoots the ball very well."
It was a huge letdown for the Pioneers, who knocked off Freedom, the No.1 team in the state, at home last Friday night.
"(Hibriten) were ready to play to start the ganme, and we weren't," said WHS coach Rob Sanders. "It's that simple. We just laid an egg tonight. As good as we looked last Friday, we were just the opposite tonight. It was like we came out of the locker room and expected to win because we beat Freedom last Friday night."
And it showed, especially in first half. But the Pioneers, who never led, fell behind 34-12 with 4:21 left in the first half. But the Pioneers eventually regrouped and they staged a furious rally, cutting the lead to six points at 35-29. A pair of free throws by Eli Gailes with 1:26 left in the second quarter capped off a 17-1 run.
"And we did it with our defense," said Sanders. "Our goal was to get back in the game, and we did that. But (Hibriten) is a good team. And we've had slow starts every time we played them this year. Tonight they had enough points and held on in the fourth quarter. Losing Jay (Harrill) to foul trouble in the first half didn't help, either. He's a huge chunk of our offense."
But the Pioneers, who trailed 40-31 at the break, never seriously challenged Hibriten again until the final minute of the game. Matt Lambert hit a three to start the second half that made it 40-34, but the Pioneers went dormant from there, and the Panthers gradually pulled way with a ten-point run for a 50-34 lead.
Harrill, who poured in 32 points in last Friday night's win against Freedom, finally cracked the scoring with a three ball with 2:56 remaining in the third quarter. But by that time, the Pioneers were looking up at a 50-37 deficit.
WHS trailed 54-44 after three, and the Hibriten's lead grew to 14 points at 61-47 with 2:47 left to play. The Pioneers never got any closer than the final score. Making matters worse, the Pioneers were a woeful 1-10 at the free-throw line in the second half.
"Free throws, like shooting from the field, is a mental thing," Sanders said. "Some nights, you can't miss, and some night, like tonight, it just won't go in. It's a disappointing loss. A stinging loss. And it sets up a huge game for us at home Friday night against Patton."
The loss drops WHS into a sixth-place tie with Hibriten in the NW3A/4A Conference standings. The Panthers won for only the second time in their last nine games.
"We just never got into a rhythm tonight," Sanders said. "And we can't depend on Jay and Cam (Baker) to carry us offensively every night. We need scoring from the post, from the perimeter. You never know what could happen in a game. Someone gets in foul trouble, or worse, gets injuried. We need someone to rise to the occasion."
Baker led the Pioneers with 21 points, ten rebounds and four steals; Harrill finished with 13 points; Gailes had seven points and eight assists. Kel Berry led the Panthers with 26 points. Drake Felder finished with 21.
"(Berry and Felder) played terrific tonight," Keller said. "They really set the tone for us early by establishing an inside game. Drake just loves to play, and he's a strong player in the post. Kel had a tough game (Monday) night (in a loss against St. Stephens), but he made up for it tonight. It's a nice win for us. Like I told the guys before the game, 'I believe in you guys, and there's a lot of people out there that believe in you. But you guys don't believe in yourselves.' Tonight, they had a lot fun, and we might have turned the corner just a little bit by winning this game."
The Pioneers return home to play Patton Friday night. Coverage begins at 6:05 p.m. on AM 1450, WATA and GoBlueridge.net.
NOTES: Hibriten defeated the WHS junior varsity girls, 31-30. Katie Hamrick and Karson Hamrick led the Pioneers with six points piece.....Hibriten won the JV boy's game, 44-34. Jeremy Ringlee led WHS (14-6; 5-2) with eight points; Caleb Bryson had seven.
HIBRITEN 67, WATAUGA 62
SCORE BY PERIODS 1 2 3 4 TOTAL
WATAUGA HIGH 8 23 13 18 - 62
HIBRITEN HIGH 23 17 14 13 - 67
WHS: HARRILL 13, EGGERS 3, GAILES 7 (8 ASSISTS), POULOS 1, DOBBINS 6 (8 REBOUNDS), JONES 1, EBAUGH 4, BAKER 21 (10 REBOUNDS, 4 STEALS), LAMBERT 6 (11 REBOUNDS). FG: 12, 3FG: 9, FT: 11-25.
HHS: WALTON 8, THOMAS 2, POARCH 2, BERRY 26, BOLICK 4, FELDER 21, BENFIELD 3, DAVIS 1. FG: 26, 3FG: 1, FT: 12-19.
WHS GIRLS 66, HIBRITEN 37
The Watauga High girl's basketball team continued its domination against Hibriten Tuesday night. The Pioneers (7-14 overall; 5-6 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference) blasted the Panthers 66-37 in a NW3A/4A Conference game in Lenior, N.C.
And much like they did in their first meeting back on January 10 at Lentz-Eggers Gym, the Pioneers jumped out to a 9-0 lead and never looked back. They led 19-2 after the one, and the it was 43-9 on a layup by Brooklin Carroll with 24 seconds left in the first half.
"We executed our game plan to the max," said WHS coach Klay Anderson. "We came out and attacked. We kept them on their heels, and we took away any hopes they might have had of winning this game. It was probably our best half of basketball all season. We were patient, we had great ball movement, and we did a very good job of getting the ball inside."
The win also leaves WHS just one game behind St. Stephens (11-10; 6-5) for the No.4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the NW3A/4A Conference tournament, which begins February 17. The Indians had their mini two-game winning streak snapped in a 59-44 loss against Hickory.
"And if we win three of our last four games, we'll get that home game," Anderson said. "What really impresses me about this team is our defense. We've really stepped it up the last few games. I thought our defense was good against Freedon. But we hit the wall offensively and the game got away from us. Tonight, we didn't have that let down offensively."
Eleven different players scored for WHS. Savanna Wood led a balanced attack with 12 points; Ryan Loflin had 11 points and five assists. Carroll had an excellent game off the bench with eight points and ten rebounds. Clare Harris had eight points.
Emily Church led the Panthers (2-15; 1-9) with nine points; Lydia Sanders had seven. The Panthers have lost eight of their last nine games.
"We had a lot of people in the scoring column tonight," Anderson said. "And any coach will take that on any given night. The more people that score, the more points you score as a team. We got a lot of people involved tonight. We really had them guessing and scrambling on defense all night. It's a nice win on the road, especially here. There's not a lot of enthusiasm in this building. You've got to make your own. But we did that with our terrific start."
A three ball by Rachel Foutz gave WHS a 38-point lead at 64-26 with 5:27 left to play. The Pioneers made eight trifectas in the game.
"And I feel real good about our chances going into Friday's match up with Patton," Anderson said. "It will be their first trip to our place, and we're playing with a lot of confidence right now. We're healthy and we're playing well. Clare (Harris) buried a couple of threes tonight, and that's big for us. We need Clare to step it up offensively. She's a nice weapon for us."
The Pioneers take on Patton Friday night at Lentz-Eggers Gym. Coverage begins at 6:05 p.m. on AM 1450, WATA and GoBlueridge.net.
WATAUGA 66, HIBRITEN 37
SCORE BY PERIODS 1 2 3 4 TOTAL
WATAUGA HIGH 19 24 13 9 - 66
HIBRITEN HIGH 2 9 13 13 - 37
WHS: MILLSAPS 4, WOOD 12, DERRICK 2, HARRIS 8, CARROLL 8 (10 REBOUNDS), LOFLIN 11 (5 ASSISTS), FARTHING 4, McNEILL 7 (7 REBOUNDS, 4 STEALS, 1 BLOCK), BROWN 2, JONES 2, FOUTZ 6. FG: 16, 3FG: 8, FT: 10-19
HHS: BROWN 3, McCRARY 4, BRUCE 4, LOGAN 4, CHURCH 9, WARREN 4, SANDERS 7, MORTON 2. FG:12, 3FG: 1, FT: 10-21.
Hickory 59, St. Stephens 44
Patton 74, Fred T. Foard 46
S. Caldwell 39, Freedom 37
Watauga 66, Hibriten 37
Fred T. Foard 73, Patton 62
Freedom 71, S. Caldwell 41
Hibriten 67, Watauga 62
Hickory 69, St. Stephens 58
(BOYS & GIRLS)
Hickory @ Freedom