By David Rogers. LEXINGTON, N.C. — With nary a wink nor a nod, Watauga’s women’s basketball team stormed past Central Davidson on Jan 3, leading from start to finish and building to a dominant, 50-39 win.
Sophomore Kate Sears scored exactly half of the Pioneers points but her offensive production was only part of the story as Watauga continued on its winning way with a full team effort. As they whipped the ball around court, it was obvious that the teammate credited with the scoring mattered little. When Sears herself was not on the front end of an assist in finding the open player, it was Laurel Kiker, Charlotte Torgerson, Caroline Farthing, Brooke Scheffler or any of the other Pioneers finding an open Sears on the perimeter or driving the lane for the layup.
To go with Sears’ 25, Scheffler (9), Farthing (8), Kiker (5) and Torgerson (3) added the rest.
Watauga’s early week contest against the Spartans was a fitting cap to a challenging, non-conference schedule in which the Pioneers went 9-4. They opened with a nervous loss to Shelby, and lost three others to Lake Norman, Charlotte Catholic — both 4A North Carolina powerhouse programs — and to a loaded Atlanta-based Westminster. But they also had some huge wins against western NC rivals, too, like Charlotte-base Myers Park and Chambers, perennial 4A contender R J Reynolds (Winston-Salem), as well as mountain region powers A C Reynolds, Mountain Heritage, Avery County and Ashe County. In the first round of the Cherokee tournament, they sent Huntsville, Ala.’s Lee High School Generals to a decisive surrender.
Now we see what a challenging non-conference schedule did to prepare the Pioneers for a demanding Northwestern Conference slate, beginning on Friday, Jan. 6, on the road at South Caldwell.
All six of the NWC members have winning records with the completion of the non-conference schedule. At 9-5, South Caldwell is at the bottom of the list. Last week’s High Country Holiday Classic finale may well prove the preview of a league championship game, with Watauga outlasting the Huskies of Ashe County, but an undefeated (12-0) Alexander Central team may have something to say about that when the Cougars host the Pioneers on Jan. 10, in Taylorsville. At 12-1 in its early slate, Hibriten will pose a threat, too, to anyone’s league championship ambitions and Freedom (8-4) is Watauga’s most consistently strong rival, year after year after year.
Watauga’s non-conference competition provided many lessons: what to do when the opposing defense focuses on stopping Sears; how and when others must step up; that the Pioneers can play outstanding basketball without their key playmaker on the court; that they can be resilient and come back from a lost game — or even can come back from a bad first half.
The non-conference chapter of the 2022-23 season is over, closed, and done with. Now it is time to roll up those Pioneer sleeves and get to work while having fun playing the game of basketball.