McDowell High School's two junior varsity basketball teams concluded the 2018-19 basketball season on Friday, hosting arch-rival Freedom High School.
     In junior varsity girls action, the Lady Titans, with the help of two players in double figures, beat the Freedom Lady Patriots 43-37 at Titan Gym. Freedom held a slim working margin at the end of the first three quarters of play, however McDowell did its damage at the end, outscoring the Lady Patriots 19-12 in the last seven minutes to pull out the victory and season sweep.
    Madi Smith (10 points, 5 rebounds) gave the Lady Titans the lead for good when she made a transition basket with 56 seconds left. Then, after McDowell stopped Freedom on its end of the court, Payton Koone (3 points) sealed the deal with two important free throws with 18 seconds left.
    Clementine Miller (6 rebounds) had 10 points to join Smith in double digits. Makiya Burgess (4 rebounds) scored six points. Katie Baker (7 rebounds, 2 assists) tallied five points. Syndey Strode netted four points in the victory.
    McDowell rounds out the season with a 10-3 overall record and a 5-3 mark in Northwestern 3A/4A Conference play. Three of the eight teams in the league did not field junior varsity girl teams this season and with no jayvees from two opponents on the non-conference schedule, it left the Lady Titans with fewer games than in a normal season.
    However, first-year coach Turner Kincaid felt that there was some balance this year of the teams that they faced.
    “This year was one of the tougher jayvee seasons in a long time if you look at it strictly from a win and loss standpoint," said Kincaid. "I thought the five teams in the conference were evenly matched so I think its good for the girls to get some of that experience. Take Alexander Central for example; they played a lot of sophomores and you could tell how experienced they were going in. But having these close games and having to make plays late in the game in crucial moments was important to our development. I really think going through that brought us all together as a team.”
    McDowell was dominant in its non-conference schedule, winning all five of its contests by an average of 31 points, but that quickly changed once league play got underway as their victories came by six points or less.
    Freedom 52, McDowell 47 (jayvee boys)
    In junior varsity boys' action, the Freedom Patriots were able to hold on to a late advantage to beat the McDowell Titans jayvees 52-47 in the season finale Friday at Titan Gym.
    A pair of sophomores led the way for McDowell in the finale. Gavin Davis scored 13 points and gathered eight rebounds and Michael Queen (4 assists, 4 rebounds) added 12 points. Freshman Josh Smith (4 rebounds) netted eight points. Mason Lamb had four points. Colby Effler and Jandon Robbins scored three points each and Zavion Bianchini finished with two points.
    The Titans played without the services of guard Mason McPeters, who injured his ankle in practice earlier in the week. The loss was significant in the finale as McPeters has been one of the most consistent players on the jayvee squad this season.
    McDowell finishes the campaign with a 17-4 mark and a 10-4 record in the Northwestern 3A/4A. Coach Allen Tate looks back at the team and how much it bonded this season as its strongest trait.
    “This is one of the most tight-knit groups I’ve ever had and there’s a few reasons for that," said Tate. "I can’t say enough about the character of this group and how they were there for me when I needed them. This group had no quit in them, they played hard and they always like to make it a bit entertaining. But we've got some good kids that have gotten better this year and the past two years for the sophomores and several of them are going to step up and help the varsity next year.”
    With the varsity team losing most of its backcourt production next season to graduation, multiple sophomores on the jayvees this season could see significant roles as varsity players next season.
    The Titans got off to a 13-0 start to begin the season, but that run ended against Freedom back on Jan. 22, a 58-55 loss in Morganton. That was the start of a three-game losing streak by the jayvees. They lost by 10 at home to Hickory on Jan. 25 and then sustained a 39-31 setback at Saint Stephens on Jan. 30.
    However, a big comeback and overtime win at Watauga on Feb. 1 catapulted McDowell into a strong finish to the season, winning four of their last five contests. The Titans in conference play much like the jayvee girls were very competitive. McDowell's margin of victory was by 8.8 points per game and that included a 28-point win (65-37) at home over West Caldwell Jan. 18.

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