Hayesville’s varsity Yellow Jacket basketball team is set for post-season action. The Jackets will host Winston-Salem Prep at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23 in round one of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1A state championship tournament.
After an exciting come-from-behind win against Swain on Thursday, Feb. 18 to end the regular season undefeated, Hayesville was given the overall No. 2 seed in the bracket and awarded a home game. That game had multiple story lines. The Jackets were trying to keep their record unblemished and Swain was playing for a shot at the playoffs. Down 15 points in the fourth quarter, the Jackets didn’t panic and ended the night with a victory.
“That was one of the most exciting comebacks I’ve ever been a part of,” said head coach Michael Cottrell. “The experience of our seniors helps us stay calm and this team has a focus that is rare in high school basketball.”
With the changes to playoff procedures this season, Cottrell says every game will be a challenge. “We have fewer rounds this year which means every team that made it in is a good team and I like that.”
As for his team’s No. 15 seed first-round opponent, Cottrell said, “Winston-Salem Prep is a good team. They are in the state championship hunt every year and have some great players. We have our work cut out for us, but our team likes challenges.”
The number of fans allowed to attend will remain at 25 per COVID regulations put in place by the NCHSAA. As has been the case all season, Jacket Nation will be able to see the game on the “Clay County Schools” YouTube channel.
“Since it’s the playoffs the school had to pay a fee in order to stream the game, but we wanted to make sure the community had a chance to see their team play,” Cottrell said.
Hayesville enters the match-up with a 14-0 record and as the Smoky Mountain Conference champions, Winston-Salem prep ended the season 8-6 which was good enough for second place in the Northwest Conference.