By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — “Blackout Night” at Lentz Eggers Gym brought arguably the best performance of the still young 2022-23 season for Watauga’s men’s basketball team. It started out promising enough when Hibriten was charged with a technical foul before the game even started — and the Pioneers kept pushing to a resounding, 70-63 finish.
BONUS PHOTOS at bottom of article
With an obvious size advantage, the Pioneers worked their up-tempo attack in transition to get the ball inside, to forwards Jackson Pryor and Grant Morrison and take advantage of any mismatches. As a result, Morrison tallied a team-high 16 points on the night, Pryor, 15. And as if to put exclamation points on their inside play, both of the big men had resounding dunks to finish off fourth quarter fast breaks.
If there was a surprise performance on the evening, it was arguably the “breakout” play by sophomore guard Josiah Railey, who attacked the basket for 13 points, including one 3-pointer. Time and again, Railey drove the lane or attacked down the baseline at the basket, sometimes kicking the ball out to an open teammate, sometimes taking the shot himself, and often times getting a free pass to the charity stripe for a foul shot.
Though slightly undersized in comparison with the Pioneers, the Hibriten players were very athletic and, for their size, posted a good rebounding effort. The Panthers’ biggest player, forward Jay Willis nearly singlehandedly kept the game close at the half by scoring 13 of his game-high 18 points in the second quarter.
“We watched a lot of film on them and knew we would have a size advantage,” acknowledged Watauga forward Grant Morrison after the game. “Our coaches had a good game plan for us and we executed well.”
Pioneer head coach Bryson Payne suggested afterwards that the team’s performance against Hibriten validates the up-tempo style he and his staff are promoting.
“The inside play by Pryor and Morrison was really made possible by what we did in transition,” said Pryor. “We pushed the ball up court but tonight was cleaner, with fewer turnovers… After Alexander Central, we just wanted to get better.”
The Pioneers turn another page on the 2022-23 season when they face Freedom in Lentz Eggers Gym on Jan. 17. The Patriots are 13-3 overall and sport an undefeated, 3-0 Northwestern Conference record. Their wins so far have come at the expense of Ashe County, Hibriten and South Caldwell.
- HIB Jay Willis (18)
- WAT Grant Morrison (16)
- WAT Jackson Pryor (15)
- HIB Nylan Battle (14)
- WAT Josiah Railey (13)
- HIB Jay Maxwell (12)
- WAT Maddox Greene (10)
- WAT Wyatt Kohout (10)
- HIB Kalen Bowers (8)
- HIB Thomas Vaught (6)
- HIB Bryce Horton (5)
- WAT Wyatt Keller (2)
- WAT Davis Hunt (2)
- WAT Cole Horine (2)
BONUS PHOTOS (all photographic images by David Rogers)