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HomeHigh SchoolWatauga erases big Q3 deficit to surprise North Meck, 73-68

Watauga erases big Q3 deficit to surprise North Meck, 73-68

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — Call them the High Country’s basketball miracle workers. Trailing North Mecklenburg by as many as 13 points early in the third quarter, host Watauga closed the gap with five 3-pointers by players not named Kate Sears, who added one long distance herself in that pivotal stanza — and a game-high total of 37 points in the Pioneers’ thrilling, 73-68 win in the second round of the North Carolina 4A playoffs.

BONUS PHOTOS at bottom of article

With the win, No. 1 seeded Watauga advances in the playoffs to host No. 8 Mallard Creek on Tuesday, March 5, at 6 p.m. in Lentz Eggers Gym.

Laney Shook (23) scores 4th quarter points vs. North Meck in Round 2 of state playoffs. Photographic image by David Rogers

By no means should anyone understate the role and impact of Sears in this game. Her 37 points was slightly more than half of the Pioneers’ winning point total. The junior point guard was relentless in driving down the lane to the rim and/or drawing Viking fouls in the process.

And yet, the turning point in the contest came in that third quarter when not Sears, but her supporting cast finally began to bury the 3-pointers they couldn’t so much get in the first half. Torgerson was good for two made shots from behind the arc in the third period and added another in the fourth quarter. Kaitlyn Darner, Laney Shook and Julie Matheson also had “treys” that contributed to the Pioneers 21-point third stanza. It shrank the 13-point deficit in the early part of the Q3 to just three points at the start of the fourth quarter (55-52).

Energized by a capacity crowd more than 75 percent filled with Pioneer supporters and the Watauga hoopsters played inspired basketball at both ends of the court in the final period, outscoring North Mecklenburg 21-11. They swatted away Viking passes and disrupted possessions with pesky defense, rebounded the basketball, and created turnover after turnover to ice the victory.

An enthusiastic student section cheered on Watauga WBB vs. North Meck in Round 2 of state playoffs. Photographic image by David Rogerspi

Sears’ 37 was not the only Pioneer in double figures. Shook had 14 and Torgerson tallied 13. The Vikings were led by senior point guard Boston Bates (25 points), freshman forward Lenise Joseph (21) and freshman guard Morgan Knox (10).

It was clear even before the opening tipoff that North Meck was likely to control the paint with a distinct height advantage and high level of athleticism. If Watauga was to win, a major portion of their points would have to come from the perimeter. Nine 3-pointers, including two by Sears among her 37 total points, played a major role in achieving the winning margin.

This is the finish of the vast majority of Kate Sears free throws. Photographic image by David Rogers

Watauga head coach Bill Torgerson aptly offered his analysis to reporters after the game.

“Obviously, Kate carried us at the beginning of the game and scored all of our points,” said the Pioneers’ first year head coach, but with two basketball-playing daughters in high school he is a veteran observer. “Kate has been through what I would call the ‘travel wars.’ I am referring to the summer basketball she plays. So, she is fearless and not intimidated by anyone.

“With Kate’s big first quarter, she started drawing more defenders and that’s when our other players had some opportunities that they were able to take advantage of,” Torgerson added. “Laney Shook was the first of them by scoring seven points in the second quarter. Laney was also doing a pretty good job on North Meck’s No. 30, Lenise Joseph, who really hurt us in the first three quarters.”

Reflecting on his message to the team at halftime, Torgerson encouraged his charges to get back to the basics of Pioneer women’s basketball and what was instrumental to their success in 2023-24.

“Down by eight at the half, we talked about poise on offense and our transition defense,” said Torgerson. “We were rattled (in the first half) by North Meck’s defense, not executing our offense, and taking really tough shots. Those shots turned into easy baskets for North Meck. And then, we also just talked about making sure we had players back on our shot attempts and that we were finding their ‘bigs’ running the floor.

“Kate also did a great job defending and helping on their bigs,” Torgerson added. “I think she led us with 12 rebounds.”

Torgerson was also quick to praise the support of the fans for Pioneer basketball.

“It was an incredible atmosphere. The crowd was as loud as I’ve ever heard it,” he said. “I felt like the players showed a lot of grit and perseverance as they fought for that win and created an opportunity to get to play again next week.”

Watauga’s head coach knows that what lies ahead will be yet another challenge for his Pioneers.

“We’ll play Mallard Creek next week. They beat North Meck three times this year,” he pointed out. “So, it will be a huge challenge for us. They put an incredible amount of pressure on the ball and the passing lanes. We’re just really excited to get to come to practice on Saturday and have the chance to prepare for another game.”

BONUS PHOTOS

This is the finish of the vast majority of Kate Sears free throws. Photographic image by David Rogers
Laney Shook (23) scores 4th quarter points vs. North Meck in Round 2 of state playoffs. Photographic image by David Rogers
kate sears
Watauga’s Kate Sears poured in 37 points vs. North Meck in Round 2 of the 2023-24 state playoffs. Photographic image by David Rogers

An enthusiastic student section cheered on Watauga WBB vs. North Meck in Round 2 of state playoffs. Photographic image by David Rogers

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