Sturgill drives to the basket

Watauga's Brelyn Sturgill (3) drives to the basket against Cuthbertson's Kamaria Sheriff (13) and Maddie Dillinger (22).

WAXHAW — Cuthbertson has turned into a nemesis for the Watauga girls’ basketball program.

Again, Watauga played a competitive close game with the favored Cavaliers. Again, their state 3-A state second-round playoff game went down to the final minute as it did in 2018.

And again, Cuthbertson took a win from the Pioneers. The Pioneers fell 49-46 in a road game Feb. 28 that saw the Pioneers twice fall behind by nine points in the fourth quarter and rally to within one point the final time.

Watauga’s season ends with an 18-9 record. The Pioneers, seeded 19th in the western bracket, reached the second round after beating West Rowan. Cuthbertson (27-3) goes on to host Hickory on Feb. 29.

Watauga found itself behind 39-30 following a 3-point shot by Ruby Williams early in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers started their answer with a 3-point basket from Brelyn Sturgill, who led Watauga in scoring with 14 points. Cuthbertson went back up by nine points and led 44-35, but Watauga went on a 6-0 run capped by an inside basket from Chelsi Hodges that pulled the Pioneers to within 44-41.

Sturgill added a basket with 24.2 seconds left in the game to close the Cavaliers’ lead to 44-43. Cuthbertson clinched the win with two free throws from Laryn Hardiman with 17.6 seconds to go. Watauga’s final chance at points, a 3-point attempt by Sturgill, who was well-defended by Kamaria Sheriff, did not fall and Cuthbertson held on.

Sturgill had to rush the shot because after the Pioneers got the ball over the time line, the Cavaliers committed a foul to force the Pioneers to take up some time since Cuthbertson had an extra foul to use before reaching the bonus.

“They read it well,” Watauga coach Laura Barry said. “They have length, so they don’t even have to read it perfectly to make a difference. They got there and made a play. We got a shot off, but it was just too late and we had no chance on the offensive glass.”

The Pioneers got seven points from Scheffler and six points, all foul shots, from Farthing. Hodges also finished with six points. Watauga guard Brooke Byrd, who missed the Pioneers’ win over West Rowan after spraining her ankle in the Northwestern Conference tournament championship game against Freedom, was in the Pioneers’ starting lineup against Cuthbertson. She finished with three points.

Maddie Dellinger led the Cavaliers in scoring with 16 points. Williams and Iovino each scored eight points for the Cavs.

Watauga led a 7-4 lead in the first quarter, but trailed 11-9 at the end of the period. Cuthbertson extended that lead to 15-9 in the second quarter, but Watauga rallied with a 5-0 run on a Hodges three-point play and a Caroline Hodges basket to take a 19-17. Williams made a 3-pointer to give Cuthbertson a 20-19 halftime lead.

“They’ve got great players,” Barry said. “I thought our players did a great job against them. They had some young kids step up late. Those two threes were big, but I’m proud of our kids and the effort they gave. Brooke playing on one ankle, the two freshmen playing a lot of minutes, asking Rebekah to do everything and she does, Chelsi Hodges was great — I just think it always tough when it’s the last (game).”

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