High hopes and expectations have filled pre-season conversations about the varsity Yellow Jacket basketball team. Time for speculation and “what ifs” ended when Hayesville got their season started Thursday, Dec. 5 with a 79-67 win over the Hawks in the Nantahala. Game two for the season happened in Franklin Monday, Dec. 9. The outcome of the game was in doubt until the final seconds when the Panthers were able to hold off the Jackets by the final of 61-60.
Hayesville had a hot hand from the opening tip against the Hawks. The Yellow Jackets moved the ball around well and created open looks at the basket in the first quarter, leading to 18 points. Nantahala struggled but did find the bucket a few times for 9 points to start the game. The Jackets’ consistency was rewarded in the second quarter with an additional 18 points. A 10-point quarter by the Hawks made the score 36-19 in Hayesville’s favor.
Both teams struggled on defense in the third quarter which means offensive numbers were strong. The Jackets lit up the scoreboard with 24 points but Nantahala kept pace with 22 points of their own. Hayesville’s scoring cooled slightly in the fourth with 19 points for a total of 79. The Hawks launched an all out assault with 26 points but ran out of time, sealing the 79-67 victory for the Jackets.
Against Franklin, Hayesville held a lead early in the first quarter but the Panthers went on a run, taking the lead and ending the quarter up 19-11. The second quarter also went Franklin’s way with the Panthers besting the Jackets 17-13 which led to a 36-24 Franklin lead at halftime.
In the locker room at halftime, coach Mike Cottrell challenged his team’s lack of intensity on defense and when play resumed, the Jackets responded. Hayesville gained a little ground in the third quarter with 17 points compared to the Panthers’ 14. The atmosphere was charged in the fourth quarter as Hayesville continued to close in. After a rally that saw the Jackets force turnovers which led to scores, Hayesville found themselves in bounding the ball under their own goal with less than eight seconds left to play and trailing by just one point. Jake McTaggart received a pass under the net for the Jackets and was immediately triple teamed. McTaggart did manage to fight his way out of coverage enough to get a shot off before the horn sounded but the ball would not fall and Franklin celebrated their 61-60 victory.
Fans can see the team in action at home Friday, Dec. 13 as they play host to the Swain County Maroon Devils at 8 p.m.