If you didn’t know better, you might swear the McDowell Titans actually enjoy inducing coronary episodes among their fan base.
Another in a growing list of heart-pounding games came down to the final seconds Tuesday night, with the Titans pulling off an 82-79 home victory over the Watauga Pioneers.
The game was played at a frantic pace throughout, with the two clubs one-upping each other seemingly every time down the floor. But the Titans – and senior point guard J.C. Olivo – had the final word.
Olivo scored McDowell’s final six points over the last 58 seconds, including a pressure—packed 3-pointer from the corner that put the Titans (1-2 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference, 6-6 overall) ahead to stay at 81-79 with 22 seconds to play.
The win came on the heels of a disappointing loss to St. Stephens last Friday that saw the Titans miss a pair of would-be game-winners in the final two seconds.
“The best thing you can say about this game is that we won,” said McDowell head coach Brian Franklin. “It played out a lot like the game the other night against St. Stephens.”
Except this time, the Titans were the ones who made the plays necessary to win.
Watauga (1-2, 5-6) had just gone ahead 79-78 on a basket from Ethan Rothrock with 34 seconds to play.
The Titans’ Qualique Garner drove hard to the basket, drew a couple defenders, and pitched the ball to the corner for Olivo, who stepped into his 3 and drilled it for an 81-79 lead with 22 seconds left.
Watauga’s Blane St. Clair was fouled on the ensuing possession with 13 seconds left, but missed both of his free throws. The Titans’ Dequan Boyce rebounded and was immediately fouled, but he too missed a pair at the stripe.
The Pioneers had a chance to recapture the lead, but Jake Sears’ 3-pointer was off-line. Olivo rebounded the miss and made one of two foul shots with 2.8 seconds to go. Watauga’s Anderson Castle launched an unsuccessful half-court heave as time expired, drawing a collective sigh from the Titans’ fans.
Olivo finished with 19 points to go with five rebounds and team-highs of four assists and three steals. Garner added 19 points and pulled seven rebounds. Post Trent Lewis tossed in 17 on 8-of-12 shooting, pulled a team-high nine boards and blocked three shots. Guard Dylan McRary also scored 17 before fouling out with 3:28 to play.
It took all of that and more on a night when the Titans shot an uncharacteristically poor 18-of-35 from the line. But McDowell hit for a solid 54 percent (28-of-52) from the field, while the quartet of Olivo, Garner, McRary and Boyce combined to shoot an even 50 percent (8-16) on 3-pointers.
“J.C. Played really, really hard and I thought concentrated more on penetrating and pitching to people, and he made a huge shot for us right at the end,” said Franklin.
St. Clair led Watauga with 23 points. Anderson Castle scored 14 and pulled 12 rebounds, helping spark a 16-9 edge in offensive boards for Watauga. Rothrock and Zachary West tossed in 10 apiece.
The Pioneers got off to a fast start and owned a 17-8 lead just 4:02 into the game. The Titans scratched their way back to within 19-15 after one quarter. In the second period, Garner scored nine – all of them on 3-pointers – and McRary seven as McDowell pulled even at 42-42 at halftime.
During one memorable stretch, Garner hit a pair of 3s and McRary added another to turn a 24-15 deficit into a 24-24 tie in a span of just 1:05.
The third quarter was all Pioneers, as Watauga put up 26 points and opened a 68-60 lead headed into the fourth.
But McDowell didn’t quit, and drew even at 70-70 on a follow shot by Olivo with 5:35 to go.
There were two ties and six lead changes after that.
Olivo made a steal at midcourt and coasted in for a layup that put the Titans up 78-77 with 58 seconds left, but Watauga quickly regained the lead on Rothrock’s bucket, setting the stage for the chaotic finale.
McDowell hosted Mitchell Wednesday. Results were not available at press time. The Titans are on the road at Alexander Central Friday.
Watauga (79) Zachary West 2-3 5-6 10, Jaiden Bond 4-11 1-4 9, Jackson Greene 1-1 1-1 3, Blane St. Clair 8-21 3-6 23, Ethan Rothrock 4-7 0-0 10, Jake Sears 2-8 0-0 6, Anderson Castle 5-14 1-4 14, Ben Ricker 0-1 0-0 0, Grant Oliver 1-1 0-0 2, Jackson Earnhardt 1-2 0-0 2, Luke Robbins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 28-69 11-21 79.
McDowell (82) Qualique Garner 5-12 6-9 19, Adam Randolph 1-4 0-0 2, Trent Lewis 8-12 1-3 17, Dylan McRary 5-10 5-6 17, J.C. Olivo 6-9 5-8 19, Dequan Boyce 2-4 1-8 6, Richard Handy 1-1 0-1 2, Andruw Randolph 0-0 0-0 0, Seth Harrison 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 28-52 18-35 82.
Watauga 19 23 26 11 – 79
McDowell 15 27 18 22 – 82
Rebounds: WHS (36) MHS (35) Rebound leaders: WHS (Castle 12) MHS (Lewis 9) 3-point goals: WHS (12-34) MHS (8-16) WHS (West 1-1, St. Clair 4-12, Rothrock 2-3, Sears 2-8, Castle 3-8, Ricker, Earnhardt 0-1) MHS (Olivo, McRary 2-4, Garner 3-7, Boyce 1-1) McDowell assist leaders: (Olivo 4) McDowell steals leaders: (Olivo 3) McDowell blocked shot leaders: (Lewis 3) Turnovers: WHS (17) MHS (21) Fouled out: MHS (McRary 3:38—fourth) Technical foul: WHS (West) MHS (Lewis)