BOONE - Friday night’s battle inside of Lentz-Eggers Gymnasium had a lot at stake for both the McDowell Lady Titans and the Watauga Lady Pioneers. Still within distance of the Northwestern 3A/4A championship, the winner of this game would remain in position to threaten league leader Freedom.
    The Lady Pioneers seized the moment as they began the contest strong and held off McDowell winning 60-50 to take sole possession of second place in the conference.
    Watauga (13-6 overall, 8-2 NWC), with the help of four players scoring in double figures, accounted for the first 10 points of the game in a span of roughly two-and-a-half minutes, and from there they expanded their margin to 21-6 after one quarter and a game-high 22 points at the halftime break at 37-15.
    McDowell struggled at most every facet of the game early on. They had only four made field goals in the half. Along with the difficulties  in shooting from the field the Lady Titans also failed to take advantage of opportunities at the foul line, shooting 7-of-16 from the stripe in the first half. The team also committed 14 first-half turnovers, some of them leading to easy transition points for Watauga.
    The sluggish first half led to a deficit that was just too much for McDowell (13-7, 7-3) to overcome. The Lady Titans did play much better after the break, getting back within 14 points after three quarters and back into single digits late. An 8-0 run by the Lady Titans midway through the fourth trimmed a 17-point deficit down to nine.
    Alana Stephenson’s 3-pointer  from the top of the key made the score 54-45 with 3:20 left in the game. However, a scoring drought from both squads resulted in nearly two minutes of game time elapsing and that ended any chance of things getting much closer down the stretch.
    Dezi Williams (4 steals, 3 assists, 2 rebounds) finished with 16 points and Makenna Parkins (8 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists) added 12 points, playing extensive minutes coming off an ankle sprain suffered on Wednesday at Saint Stephens.
    Naliyah Boyce (10 rebounds) finished with eight points. Stephenson had seven points. Zoe Miller (4 assists) had three points and Makaylah Chandler (4 rebounds) and Daisy Rice scored two points each.
    Cailey Haas scored a team-high 15 points for the Lady Pioneers with six of those points coming in the first quarter. Rebekah Farthing added 14 points, Brooke Byrd chipped in 12 points and Bralyn Sturgill had 10 points.
    With Friday’s loss, the Lady Titans are now in third place overall in the league standings, a game ahead of Hickory. Meanwhile, Watauga is still within two games of Freedom (19-1, 10-0) with a matchup scheduled on Feb. 12 between the two in Boone.
    McDowell returns home next week where they will begin a stretch of three of their last four regular-season contests at Titan Gym. It begins on Tuesday, hosting Alexander Central with an early 6 p.m. tip due to the jayvees being played in the auxiliary gym.
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