Byrd returns for senior season

Watauga’s Brooke Byrd returns for her senior season.

Watauga boys’ and girls’ basketball coach Laura Barry is attempting to do something that few have tried — coach two programs at the same time.

Barry has put both programs through their preseason workouts. Now comes the time when both programs get to see if they are prepared for the season to open, which is Nov. 26 against visiting Mountain Heritage.

“I’m doing well so far,” Barry said. “If I were teaching at the high school that would be tough to do each day. I’m trying to use time before each practice to get organized and prepared and I think that has helped. I have to take the time to get enough sleep and take care of myself so I can be a good coach to both teams.”

The Watauga girls’ team has one advantage over the boys’ team — they have all of their players on their roster. Watauga’s volleyball season is over, and several key players from the volleyball roster are playing basketball.

Two key players — guard Brooke Byrd and forward Rebekah Farthing — return for their senior seasons. Both have been a part of a program that won a Northwestern Conference championship in 2017-18 and went 17-10 overall, 10-4 in the NWC last season.

Byrd led the Pioneers in scoring last season with 10.4 points per game. Farthing was second with 10.3 points per game, while graduated senior point guard Cailey Haas was third with 10.2 points per game.

“We return four starters and that’s huge,” Barry said. “The energy and their leadership in the gym have been fabulous, which is nice. We’re doing some things and adding some new things, which is what you should do every year, but the understanding from what we want coming from all five seniors, but especially from Brooke and Rebekah has been fabulous.”

It’s good for the Pioneers to have 20.5 points per game returning in Byrd and Farthing. Watauga returns guard Brelyn Sturgill, who averaged 7.2 points per game. Another starter, power forward Chelsi Hodges, returns after averaging 4.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

But Watauga must find somebody else to pick up the slack left by Haas.

Several veterans return to provide the Pioneers with depth. Shooting guard Taylor Lipford, senior center Molly Ward, senior forward Cora Lubsen and junior guard Ava Williamson also return.

Watauga also returns junior guard Macie Keller and brings up junior guard Paxton Pruess and junior Kendall Reece to the varsity.

The Pioneers will also rely on incoming freshmen Caroline Farthing and Brooke Scheffler to provide support scoring and rebounding. The two played key roles on the Watauga varsity volleyball team in the fall.

Along with Haas, Watauga must replace Paige Bolick and Libby Warren, who graduated from last season.

“I think it’s going to be a good team to watch because of our returning cast,” Barry said. “We have a couple of freshmen who are going to be in the mix and have an impact and the sophomores and juniors are going to be better.”

After hosting Mountain Heritage, Watauga faces Gastonia Ashbrook on Dec. 3 and plays at Avery County on Dec. 5. Watauga also hosts Ashe County on Dec. 6 and continues with seven more games, including a NWC game against South Caldwell on Dec. 19.

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