BOONE — The invasion of Watauga County, otherwise known as the Boone Roundball Classic, moved through the High Country March 15-17.
The event drew 125 teams mostly from Watauga County, Charlotte, the Triad area, East Tennessee and from Southern Virginia. The 15 age brackets included third grade up to varsity high school programs.
“It’s in the books,” said event co-director Stephen Poulos. “We were pleased with the turnout. The hotels and restaurants were very pleased with the influx of people in town. With basketball, when you have that many games, there’s always going to be some folks fussing about the officials. That’s pretty standard out there, but the majority of people were happy.”
Watauga County had one bracket champion. The High Country Hustle won the third-grade boys’ bracket with a 40-9 win over the McDowell Titans March 15 in the Watauga High School Auxiliary gym and another win over the Titans on March 17. The Hustle beat the Burke Heat 33-22 in the finals at Valle Crucis Elementary.
“The teams from Charlotte did pretty well,” Poulos said. “The team LMPCITN from Elizabethton, one of the coaches told me there is a former WNBA player and they play under her. Ray Felton sponsors some of the teams and one of Ray Felton’s teams (Team Felton 2024 Black) won the seventh-grade girls.”
There were several local teams playing, including teams affiliated with the Team Peak, Watauga Warriors, the Watauga Storm, the High Country Hustle and the Ashe Lightning.
BOONE — There is a chance that Watauga senior Zach West’s first college football game will be played in Boone.
The twist is that West won’t be playing for Appalachian State.
West committed to be a preferred walk-on to play football at East Tennessee State March 14 at Watauga High School. West, who will likely play safety for the Buccaneers, could be playing at Appalachian State’s Kidd Brewer Stadium when the Bucs play the Mountaineers Aug. 31 — when East Tennessee State returns for the first time since 2003, the season before the Bucs discontinued football.
East Tennessee State reinstated its football program in 2015. Coached by Randy Sanders, the Bucs went 8-4 overall and were co-champions of the Southern Conference with Wofford and Furman with 6-2 league records.
“That’s my goal,” West said. “I want to be up here when we play App in the first game of the season.”
To do that, West will have to make the travel squad in his freshman season. It’s likely he will be redshirted, but the NCAA has eased its redshirt requirements, which allows for players, usually freshmen, to play in more games during redshirt seasons.
Watauga girls’ soccer
HICKORY — It’s way too early to speculate whether the Watauga women’s basketball team’s 3-1 road win over Hickory March 18 gives the Pioneers the inside track to the Northwestern Conference championship.
But, any win over Hickory (5-1-1, 1-1 NWC), a traditionally strong NWC program, is a big win. Watauga (4-2, 2-0), on a chilly Hickory night, got some big saves from goal keeper Magali Turner. The Pioneers were able to preserve a 3-1 lead for the final 16 minutes of the match despite a red card left the Pioneers a player short.“We know every time we play Hickory it’s going to be physical,” Watauga coach Chris Tarnowski said. “Tonight certainly didn’t disappoint. We match up so well, especially these two teams. Sparks fly when we get together.”
Watauga had to play one player short because one of the Pioneers was issued a red card for pushing one of the Hickory players after the ball went out of bounds. Watauga was able to kill the penalty much like a hockey team. The Pioneers kept kicking the ball as deep into the Red Tornadoes’ half of the field as they could, and did not make any critical mistakes in front of their own goal.
Watauga boys’ basketball
BOONE — Watauga guard Blane St. Clair was named to the All-District 11 basketball second team by the North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association.
St. Clair, a sophomore, averaged 20.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He shot 51 percent from the field for two-point baskets and 35 percent from 3-point range. He also made 84 percent from the free throw line.
St. Clair is the first Watauga sophomore to make an all-district team. Watauga finished with the season with a 13-13 record, 7-7 in the Northwestern Conference and reached the state 3-A playoffs.
HICKORY — The Watauga softball team crushed Hickory 22-1 in a game that was stopped after four innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Watauga scored in all four innings, including nine runs in the first inning and seven in the third. Using several junior varsity players, Watauga (3-3, 2-2 Northwestern Conference) added five runs in the fourth inning.
Hickory (2-5, 0-4) scored a run in the first inning to keep the Pioneers from posting a shutout.
Watauga hammered out 14 hits, including five doubles. One of those doubles, hit by Jada Wilson in the fourth inning, drove in three runs.
App State men’s basketball
BOONE — Appalachian State fired head men’s basketball coach Jim Fox on March 15.
Fox guided Appalachian State to an 11-21 record and 10th place in the Sun Belt Conference in the 2018-19 season. The Mountaineers finished 6-12 in the Sun Belt and were 2-13 on the road this season. They were eliminated from the Sun Belt Conference Tournament by Louisiana-Monroe 89-80.
“I want to thank Jim and his staff for all they have done for our basketball program,” Appalachian State Athletics Director Doug Gillin said in a statement. “Jim inherited a challenging situation, worked hard and has brought in high-character student-athletes. Our vision for basketball is to annually compete for a conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. We will conduct a national search to find the best leader to accomplish that vision. There is significant opportunity to achieve basketball success here at Appalachian.”
Fox’s overall record was 56-99 dating back to the 2014-15 season. His best season was 2017-18 when Appalachian State finished with a 15-18 mark and tied for fifth place in the Sun Belt and beat Little Rock 93-64 to win its first Sun Belt Tournament game. Expectations were raised and Fox received a two-year contract extension as a result, but the Mountaineers struggled at the beginning of the season by not beating a Division I program until the Mountaineers beat Little Rock 77-73 on Jan. 26.
App State football
CLEVELAND — Former Appalachian State offensive tackle Kendall Lamm signed a free-agent deal to play with the Cleveland Browns March 15.
Brown spent the last five seasons playing for the Houston Texans after signing with Houston in 2015. A Charlotte native and Butler High graduate, Lamm started 13 games at right tackle for the Texans in 2018.
Lamm, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 310 pounds, started in in 35 of his final 36 games at Appalachian State. He was charged with allowing just one sack in his senior season. He was first-team all-Sun Belt Conference in 2014 and was second-team all-Southern Conference in 2013.
App State softball
MONROE, La. — Appalachian State completed another Sun Belt series sweep with a 5-0 win against Louisiana-Monroe March 17.
App State (17-7, 6-0 SBC) maintains its undefeated conference record and is now tied for first with nationally ranked No. 10 Louisiana. This continues the best start in school history with back-to-back Sun Belt series sweeps for the first time.