Mountain Heritage beats Watauga

Watauga’s Holden Perry (12) drives on the Mountain Heritage defense, including center Justus Shelton (43) and Lucas Jenkins (1).

BOONE — The Watauga boys’ basketball program has played its share of state championship contenders over the years, be they from the Northwestern Conference or non-conference opponents.

When Watauga fell 65-39 to visiting Mountain Heritage at Lentz-Eggers Gym on Jan. 29, the Pioneers (6-12) may have lost to a state contender in the 2-A classification.

Mountain Heritage improved to 18-1 this season. The game was originally scheduled to be played Nov. 26, but was moved to Jan. 29 because several players were still playing in the state football playoffs.

The Cougars used their size and athleticism to pull away from Watauga, which lost its sixth straight game.

“Obviously their football team is great and they carry it on to the basketball court,” Watauga coach Laura Barry said. “That’s a lot like what we want to do at Watauga.”

Mountain Heritage got 22 points from its 6-foot-10 center Justus Shelton, who had four dunks in the game. Barry felt Watauga’s Tyler Ward, who stands 6-5, did a good job guarding the athletic Shelton.

Barry said the Pioneers tried to get Shelton to catch the ball away from the rim, trap him and force him to pass the ball. Shelton foiled those plans by catching the ball close to the basket and just taking short shots at the rim.

“He’s lanky and looks like he can’t move, but he really has mobility,” Barry said. “We tried to bring him up on defense and keep him away from the rim a little bit, and that worked well for us in the first half. He uses his body well and he’s not a heavy guy, but we didn’t have the size to match up.”

Mountain Heritage has other athletic players who can play the perimeter and at the post. Logan Higgins (6-6) finished with 10 points, Lucas Jenkins (6-5) finished with seven points, while point guard Nathanial Ledford finished with nine points.

“Size and height is one thing, size and strength is another,” Barry said. “They were physical on the defensive end and they were able to get downhill and drive.”

Anderson Castle led Watauga in scoring with 11. He was the only Pioneer to reach double figures. Jaiden Bond and Ben Hale each scored six points for the Pioneers.

Mountain Heritage never trailed and took an 11-3 lead out of the gate. Watauga fell behind 21-11 in the second quarter, but the Pioneers rallied to pull to within 21-19.

Mountain Heritage, leading 23-19 at halftime, pulled away from the Pioneers by outscoring Watauga 24-7 in the third quarter. The Cougars scored the first 12 points of the second half to secure a 34-19 lead that was never challenged. Leading 39-25, Mountain Heritage closed out the third quarter with a 7-1 run to take a 46-26 lead into the fourth quarter.

“More than anything, they’re just a complete and skilled team,” Barry said. “They can play about eight kids and it doesn’t drop off. I think they’ll have a deep playoff run and I’m glad we got to play them. It helps us get better.”

Mountain Heritage 65, Watauga 39

Mountain Heritage 65 (18-1)

Jenkins 3 1-3 7, Lo. Higgins 5 0-2 10, Shehan 1 3-4 5, Randolph 1 1-2 5, Ledford 3 0-0 9, Le. Higgins 2 2-4 6, Crane 1 0-0 3, Shelton 10 1-3 21, Austin 0 0-0 0, Allen 0 0-0 0 Woods 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 8-18 65.

Watauga 39 (6-12)

Bond 3 0-0 6, Castle 2 5-8 11, Perry 2 0-0 4, Greer 2 0-0 4, Hale 3 0-0 6, Robbins 1 0-0 3, Martin 0 1-2 1, Privette 1 2-2 4, Ward 0 0-0 0, Earnhardt 0 0-0 0, Sears 0 0-0 0, Freeman 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 8-12 39.

Mountain Heritage 15 7 24 19 — 65

Watauga 9 10 7 13 — 39

3-point goals—Mountain Heritage 6 (Ledford 3, Randolph 2, Crane), Watauga 5 (Castle 2, Hale 2, Robbins). Total fouls—Mountain Heritage 10, Watauga 16. Fouled out—None. Technical fouls—None.

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