The regular season is winding down and with their success so far this season, the varsity Yellow Jackets are getting every opponent’s best effort. On Friday, Jan. 31 the Swain County Maroon Devils tried to stop Hayesville’s winning ways. After establishing an early lead, the Devils lost their grip on momentum and the Jackets took over on their way to a 67-50 win. On Monday, Feb. 3 Hayesville was on the road to face Highlands. Even without a key player the Jackets were too tough and picked up a 57-50 victory.
In Bryson City, the Devils grabbed an early advantage with 14 first-quarter points. The three-ball was big for Hayesville as Hayden McClure had a pair and Mark Cothren fired a successful shot from the arch to help keep things close. The opening stanza ended with the Jackets trailing 14-11.
Team totals in the second quarter were carbon copies of the first. For Hayesville, sophomore Kolbe Ashe led the charge with six points in the period but Swain hit the locker room at halftime with a 28-22 lead.
Ashe took the game over in the third quarter. The Jackets’ point guard lit up the net for 12 points and Hayesville’s defense tightened down. After giving up 14 points in each of the first two quarters, the Jackets held Swain to just 7 in the third. Hayesville’s offense totaled 22 points in the quarter to give them a 44-35 lead.
Five Yellow Jackets rattled the rim for a game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter. Swain also had their best offensive output of the game but the 15 points scored by the Devils were not enough and Hayesville headed home with a 67-50 win.
In Highlands, the Jackets took the court without Ashe as he was battling the flu. That left a huge hole to fill and Cothren stepped into role nicely. Hayesville’s lone senior drained a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter to light the fire for the Jackets’ offense. McClure and Jake McTaggart added to the cause and the first quarter ended with Hayesville up 13-10.
It was more of the same in the second quarter with Cothren again finding the bottom of the bucket with a long-range 3-pointer. McClure and McTaggart combined for another 10 and junior Blake McClure’s bucket gave the Jackets a 28-20 lead at the break.
Highlands fought back in the third, scoring 11 to win the quarter but only closing the gap by 1 point. In the fourth Blake drew contact to earn three trips to the free-throw line where he went a perfect 6-6. McTaggart dropped 7 and Cothren continued to show his range with another 3-pointer as Hayesville picked up the 57-50 win.
A huge showdown now awaits the Jackets. At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7 Hayesville will travel to Andrews. A win over the Wildcats will guarantee the Jackets sole ownership of a Smoky Mountain Conference title. Hayesville will be in The Hive Tuesday, Feb.11 to host Cherokee in the regular-season finale with tip off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Winter sports seniors will be honored during the night’s activities.
Leaders at Swain
Kolbe Ashe: 24 points
Mark Cothren: 11 points
Jake McTaggart: 11 points
Blake McClure: 9 points
Leaders at Highlands
Jake McTaggart: 20 points
Mark Cothren: 16 points
Hayden McClure: 11 points
Blake McClure: 8 points