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Second half rally fuels Watauga MBB in 73-64 Round 1 win vs. Reagan

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — In the first half of Watauga’s Feb. 27 first round matchup against Reagan (Pffaftown) in the 2024 state playoffs, the Pioneers allowed the Raiders to score almost willy-nilly from inside the paint and had trouble executing their preferred, up-tempo, transition style of play. With some critical halftime adjustments, Watauga all but forced Reagan to attack from the perimeter — and reignited their fast-paced play in transition pull even at 38-38 in the third quarter and push ahead to a 73-64 victory.

Both teams appeared evenly matched at the beginning, though Reagan seemed to have the edge. Perhaps the Pioneers recalled having been defeated by the Raiders earlier in the year, but as the local quintet grew more confident, the tide shifted. Watauga outscored Reagan, 47-35 after halftime to win the day.

Wyatt Kohout of the Pioneers finishes a fast break in transition vs. Reagan on Feb. 27. Photographic image by David Rogers

Much of the second half rally was fueled by the play of sophomore guard Cade Keller. His and teammate Josiah Railey’s respective 9-point second quarters gave momentum to the Pioneers going into the break, offsetting a 10-point performance by Reagan’s K J Ford in the period. Railey, Keller and senior forward Wyatt Kohout broke things open, however, after the break. A Railey “dunk” in the third period seemed energize the Pioneers, whose outlet passes from defensive rebound to a sprinting Maddox Greene, Keller, or Railey to bring the ball upcourt in transition attack overwhelmed the Raider defensive efforts.

Watauga only recorded four 3-pointers in this game, two by Keller in the second half. The rest of the time they were finishing fast breaks with successful drives to the basket — or getting fouled by this or that Raider for a free trip to the charity stripe.

If the Watauga student section’s dress theme was ‘camouflage,’ they would only have been effective in Hawaii or Fiji on Feb. 27. Give the students a 6th man award for their energy in the 73-64 Pioneer win over Reagan. Photographic image by David Rogers

Give Reagan credit. The No. 26 seeded Raiders stayed in this game until the bitter end. Ford finished the night with a game-high 26 points, but only got serious help from Jayden McCrae (12 points). Meanwhile, Keller, Railey, Kohout and senior center/forward Jackson Pryor tallied, 23, 20, 13 and 13, respectively to lead the Pioneers.

With the win, No. 8 seeded Watauga earns the right to host No. 9 Independence on Mar. 1. The winner advances to face either top-seeded Myers Park or No. 16 Ardrey Kell.

An acrobatic drive to the basket by point guard Maddox Greene often ended with a pass to the perimeter. Photographic image by David Rogers

In Round 1, No. 1 Myers Park defeated No. 32 Mallard Creek, 82-45; No. 16 Ardrey Kell edged No. 16 Southwest Guilford, 70-68; and No. 9 Independence dispatched No. 24 Cox Mill, 70-63.

“Our guys were inspired by a pre-game article by High School OT suggesting that this was the most likely upset of the first round,” said Pioneer head coach Bryson Payne. “That didn’t sit too well with them.”

Biggest upset in the West bracket from the first round undoubtedly goes to No. 27 Marvin Ridge, a 62-47 winner over No. 6-seeded McDowell, in Marion.

Reagan played forceful defense vs. Watauga, especially in the first half. Photographic image by David Rogers

 

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