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UPDATED: Watauga WBB overcomes hesitant start to defeat Mallard Creek going away, 62-44, advancing to Rd. 4 vs. Myers Park

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — Watauga defeated Mallard Creek, 62-44, on March 5, but how they did it was something worth witnessing.

For the first three minutes of the first quarter against Mallard Creek in Round 3 of the NC State Playoffs, many of the home fans in Lentz Eggers Gym may have been worried, or at least were wearing puzzled looks on their faces. The Watauga starters were getting good looks after breaking the Mavericks’ press, but couldn’t seem to buy a bucket. Some three minutes in and the No. 1 seeded Pioneers trailed No. 8 Mallard Creek, 10-0.

Enter Watauga freshman, Blair Haines. Per the Pioneers’ usual brisk passing inside, outside, and around the perimeter, suddenly Haines had an open look from behind the arc and she calmly banked it in. Junior point guard Kate Sears may have had a couple of points before Haines but when the diminutive freshman hit nothing but net off the glass from downtown King Street, it seemed a trigger to change the Pioneer fortunes.

Laney Shook spots an inside opportunity to go to the basket. Photographic image by David Rogers

Watauga completed the comeback to take the lead, 14-10 ant the end of the first quarter, Sears pouring in 11 of the points, including three 3-pointers. With Sears driving the lane to add 8 more points in the second period and sophomore forward Laney Shook adding four of her own, the Pioneers had a 26-21 lead going into halftime, thanks largely to a disruptive defensive effort that forced the Mavericks to take off balance shots (that missed the mark).

What would the second half bring? In a word, the Pioneers found a rhythm. They got four, 3-point daggers in the second half from Julie Matheson. They got a couple more from senior guard Charlotte Torgerson and, of course, they got 11 more second half points from Sears, including two from long distance.

At the end of Q3, the Pioneers led, 40-36, but it was the final stanza that Watauga soared. Aided by Maverick turnovers, the Pioneers capitalized, limiting Mallard Creek to just eight points in the final stanza while scoring 22 of their own.

After commending his team for their resiliency in coming back from that 10-point opening deficit, Watauga head coach Bill Torgerson drew some comparisons.

Sears slips by a Mallard Creek block attempt to score in Round 3. Photographic image by David Rogers

“The game felt like the North Meck (Round 2) game in some ways because Kate did the bulk of our scoring in the first half as the defense was covering the other players,” said Torgerson. “And then when the defense adjusted to key in on Kate, the rest of the players had some opportunities. Julie Matheson really delivered with four, second-half threes and Charlotte Torgerson scored nine in the second half.”

But the Pioneers’ head coach knows that winning basketball is seldom just about offense.

“We knew we were going to have to do the best job of the year as far as our transition defense,” the first year Watauga head coach said. “Mallard Creek’s Lilly Booker and Ellie Stone are really dangerous running the floor and looking for each other. Our players really executed that (defensive) part of what we needed to do.”

Torgerson did not overlook Blair Haines’ early contributions.

“I think that was probably the most freshman Blair Haines has played and I thought she gave us some really important minutes,” said Torgerson. “She pressured the ball, she made some good decisions, and she hit a big first quarter three when we were really having a hard time scoring.”

The near capacity crowd in Lentz Eggers Gym for this third round game provided an electric atmosphere that also did not go unnoticed by the coach.

“The crowd was fantastic again. I think it’s a big advantage for us when they show out like that. I think they were a big part of the second half run we were able to make,” he said.

The Pioneers will now host No.4 seeded Myers Park on Friday, March 8, 6 p.m. In the lower half of the 4A West bracket, No. 2. Lake Norman faces No. 3 Charlotte Catholic.

In the 4A East, No. Rolesville advanced and will face No. 6 Chapel Hill in the lower bracket while No. 1 seeded Hoggard takes on No. 5 Richmond in the upper bracket.

WATAUGA SCORING

  • Kate Sears – 30
  • Julie Matheson – 12
  • Charlotte Torgerson – 9
  • Laney Shook – 6
  • Blair Haines – 3
  • Kaitlyn Darner – 2
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