—By David Rogers. HUDSON, N.C. — Finding different ways to win basketball games can add up to a good season. In opening Northwestern Conference play for the 2022-23 season with a dominating win over South Caldwell, 60-34, Watauga found a third star on Jan. 6.
The Spartans’ starting lineup featured 6-foot (plus), very athletic post player in Lillie Bumgarner and, from the get-go, it was apparent that South Caldwell intended to leverage her height advantage. While the Pioneers jumped out to an early lead, thanks largely to 8 first quarter points from Charlotte Torgerson, by focusing their offensive attack through the post the Spartans were able to even things up at 11-11. Bumgarner tallied seven of those points.
A key defensive adjustment and strategy paid dividends for the Pioneers going forward.
“Bumgarner got going early, in the first quarter and that was critical for them,” said Watauga head coach Laura Barry after the game. “The adjustment that had to be made was for us to either start scoring more or stopping her, or some combination of the two. We knew we wanted to press at some point in the first half. Clearly there are some teams that don’t want that pressure. I thought Caroline (Farthing) with her quick hands at the top of our zone was effective, but our press disrupted them even more. We (extended our lead) off their turnovers.”
Watauga senior Brooke Scheffler drew the defensive assignment of guarding Bumgarner and even though the Spartan junior scored 20 points on the night, without Scheffler’s efforts the damage to the Pioneer scorebook would have been much worse and that was not lost on Barry afterwards.
“Brooke does a really good job every night, defensively. She is big inside for us. Some people forget how much of a difference maker that is, but I love it that she is also shooting the ball with confidence,” said Barry.
In fact, Scheffler proved to be double trouble for the host Spartans. While limiting Bumgarner to just 13 points for the final three quarters on the defensive end, Scheffler was also making a difference on the offensive end, exploding for a game-high 22 points on the night, including three 3-pointers from beyond the arc.”
But it was a night that almost wasn’t for Scheffler, who is committed to play Division I college volleyball for Furman University. Her night against South Caldwell was almost cut very short because she was poked in the eye within the first couple of minutes of play.
“She got poked in the eye really hard,” said Barry, “and we were actually thinking she wouldn’t go back in tonight but she put in a few eyedrops — and she is tough. As a team we spoke about toughness before the game and she lived it tonight. She came back, ready to go.”
Was she ever. Re-entering the game, Scheffler poured in 13 of the team’s 23 points in the second quarter as the press and capitalizing on turnovers led the Pioneers to outscore South Caldwell, 23-6, in what proved to be the game’s pivotal period.
“We needed (Brooke) in this game. We didn’t need her to score 22, but we needed her because of what she brings to the floor. She exceeded that. (Chuckling) We were joking that we needed to poke her in the eye before every game,” said Barry, with smile in her eye.
Barry also had high praise for three players coming off the bench, including Kaitlyn Darner, who plays almost as many minutes as the starters in most games, and Diane McGlamery and Gracie Lawrence.
“We really needed them tonight to fill in for Scheffler when she was out and also because Laurel Kiker was in foul trouble early. They all did a great job,” said Barry.
Three Pioneers scored in double figures. In addition to Scheffler’s game-high 22, point guard Kate Sears rolled up 17 without hardly touching the floor in the final period. Watauga’s other reliable offensive producer, Torgerson, finished the night with 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. As a team, the Pioneers were a respectable 7-of-11 from the foul line.
Barry also had special notes about the development of Farthing and Scheffler in making the transition from volleyball to basketball and how they are both now rounding into form.
“It is not getting into basketball shape, physically,” said Barry, noting that both are very fit athletes. “It is more of getting into the basketball skill and proficiency. Farthing, for example, some of her reads and what she is seeing with the ball in her hands is so much better than where I thought she would be at this point. She is a senior, making plays for us.”
Looking ahead at the next (Jan. 10) conference matchup against Alexander Central (12-0 in their non-conference schedule to open the season, Barry was quick to note, “I am really interested in seeing how Alexander Central’s opening game against Ashe County turned out. AC is very coached and we know who they have back. We don’t know as much about their new point guard. But they can shoot it. They are well coached. And they will be executing on offense. It will be interesting to see how they guard us because they have some good players.”
Watauga’s Jan. 10 game against Alexander Central is on the road, in Taylorsville, and tentatively scheduled to tipoff just after 6 p.m., after the junior varsity men’s game in the Cougar gym.
- WAT Brooke Scheffler (22)
- SCA Lillie Bumgarner (20)
- WAT Kate Sears (17)
- WAT Charlotte Torgerson (15)
- WAT Caroline Farthing (4)
- SCA Addison Edwards (4)
- SCA Kaylee Anderson (4)
- SCA Kristin Barber (4)
- WAT Julie Matheson (2)
- SCA Landrie Smith (2)