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Watauga WBB subdues Patriots, 54-24

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — If basketball games were decided only by a team’s dexterity at the free throw line, Freedom’s 6-for-6 shooting from the charity stripe won the night. But…

Watauga’s women’s basketball team ran over the visiting Patriots, 54-24, in front of a loud and enthusiastic crowd of supporters for both sides cramming Lentz Eggers Gym on Jan. 17.

Bonus photos at bottom of article

The Pioneers’ disruptive defensive effort offered Freedom relative few shooting opportunities and those the Patriots got off were mostly off the mark. Meanwhile, Watauga’s balanced scoring effort saw the Pioneers jump out to a 16-2 lead by the end of just the first quarter, and the lopsided results got even more lopsided after that.

This has been a year when different Pioneer players stepped up and made their mark on individual games to complement the consistent leadership — call it field generalship, in military terms — of sophomore point guard Kate Sears, who is averaging 20.6 points per game and, true to form, scored 21 against Freedom.

Lucy Soucek of the Watauga Pacers was head over heels for the Pioneers’ WBB performance on Jan 17, in their 30-point win over archrival, Freedom. Photographic image by David Rogers

But as the Pioneers whipped the ball around the court, looking for the open shot opportunity, the “step up” sparks in this contest came from Laurel Kiker and Julie Matheson, right from the beginning.

Matheson hit from beyond the arc in the first quarter. It was a dagger to the heart of Freedom’s poise.

Kiker is the proverbial Energizer bunny who is known to make things happen on defense, shifting quickly from one side of the court to the other to pressure an opponent’s possession. She steals. She blocks. She flies around the court to disrupt.

Kaitlyn Darner sets up for a ‘three’ against Freedom on Jan. 17. Photographic image by David Rogers

Against Freedom, Kiker was even more. She drove the lane to the basket. She drove the lane or baseline before kicking the ball out to an open teammate. She shot and hit from beyond the 3-point arc. In addition to her defensive presence, Kiker was an offensive facilitator against the Patriots, scoring 11 points of her own and collecting an untold number of assists.

“Freedom is a well-coached team,” said Watauga head coach. “Tonight, our skill work paid off. We put the right pieces together to allow our players to play to their strengths. I think our defense caught them a little bit off guard. As a coach, I know you can prepare for something but it isn’t the same when you get out there and are actually playing against it. They struggled against our 1-3-1 zone, which was apparent by their having only scored 8 points by halftime. We got some runouts and established momentum.”

Kate Sears (12) maneuvers through traffic on her way to the basket on Jan. 17, vs. Freedom. Photographic image by David Rogers

Barry was quick to acknowledge that even the best programs have their ups and downs from year to year.

“In the time I have been here, this rivalry has more often than not gone in Freedom ‘s favor,” said Barry.

Barry was candid in assessing the resurgence of Kiker.

“Against Myers Park (Nov. 26), that was probably Kiker’s best game up to this point. She was fantastic down in Charlotte over Thanksgiving. But today… defensive intensity was there, layups down the lane, hit a three… She is known for her scoring, but her defense led to some scoring opportunities for herself as well as for others, too,” said Barry. “Kiker, Caroline (Farthing), Brooke Scheffler are all tremendous defenders. It is frustrating for an opposing team when it looks like the shot opportunity is there when all of a sudden it isn’t because of their defensive play.”

Now 13-5 overall, 3-1 in Northwestern Conference play, will now take its game on the road for a Jan. 20 matchup at Ashe County, a familiar opponent since the Pioneers faced the Huskies in the recent High Country Holiday Classic championship game. Although the Pioneers came away from that encounter in Lentz Eggers Gym with a 61-50 win, Ashe County brings a similar record into the rematch, 12-4 overall and 3-1 against Northwestern Conference opponents. They have conference wins against Alexander Central, Freedom, and South Caldwell, losing only a 1-point decision to Hibriten, 66-65, on Jan. 10 in West Jefferson.

SCORING SUMMARY

  • WAT Kate Sears (21)
  • WAT Laurel Kiker (11)
  • WAT Julie Matheson (6)
  • WAT Brooke Scheffler (6)
  • FRE Sydnie Demiter (6)
  • FRE Ava Whitaker (6)
  • WAT Charlotte Torgerson (5)
  • FRE Ava Whisnant (4)
  • FRE Peyton Caldwell (4)
  • WAT Gracie Lawrence (3)
  • WAT Kaitlyn Darner (2)
  • FRE Statlee McGee (2)
  • FRE Kaitlyn Hagman (2)

BONUS PHOTOS by David Rogers

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