The varsity Yellow Jacket basketball team from Hayesville High School continued their chase for a championship Thursday, Feb. 27. Hayesville hosted Pine Lake Prep for a second round playoff game in front of large home crowd. After a back-and-forth first half, the Jackets found their groove and advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 69-52 win. In the third round, Hayesville travelled to Siler City Saturday, Feb.29 where they were beaten 58-40 by Chatham Charter.
Following the opening tip, it appeared Hayesville was on their way to an easy win. The Jackets went on a run to build up a lead thanks to a cluster of 3-point shots. Hayden and Blake McClure each dropped a long-range shot and big man Jake McTaggart showed off his shooting skills with a pair of buckets from behind the arch. However, as the opening quarter ticked by, Pine Lake went on a run of their own to close the gap to 16-12 by quarter’s end.
In the second, scoring wasn’t as easy for Hayesville. McTaggart was the only Yellow Jacket to find the bottom of the bucket in the quarter, adding 8 points to Hayesville’s total before the half. On the other end of the floor, Pine Lake made adjustments to find success against the Jackets’ defense. The visiting team put up 15 points in the quarter and found themselves leading 27-24 at the break.
Hayesville hit the court in the third quarter with a reignited fire. Blake McClure used his defensive play to turn the momentum in favor of the Jackets. The junior stood firm in the lane, taking a total of seven charges in the game which created seven turnovers. Sophomore Kolbe Ashe earned his way to the free-throw line by driving to the basket and drawing contact. Ashe went 6-6 from the stripe as Hayesville netted 19 points to regain the lead, 43-37.
The Jackets weren’t satisfied with the 6-point advantage and continued to stand on the gas in the fourth quarter. Ashe again worked his way to the foul line where he went 8-8, giving him a 100 percent free throw average for the game. In total, five Yellow Jackets combined for 26 points in the final stanza. Pine Lake managed 15 additional points but seemed to run out of gas down the stretch. Jacket Nation celebrated the 69-52 victory with the team in the lobby as the Jackets thanked the community for their support.
Scoring was slow for both teams in the early going of Hayesville’s game against Chatham Charter. The Knights were able to claim the lead in the first quarter with 9 points while holding the Jackets to 5 which were scored by the McClure cousins. In the second quarter, Hayesville was able to feed McTaggart under the basket and the big sophomore got in the stat book with 6 points. Ashe nailed a shot from behind the arch for 3 of the Jackets’ 14 points in the quarter. Even with Hayesville’s success, Chatham Charter was able to pull away with 18 points and extend their lead to 28-19 at the half.
Jacket Nation found renewed hope in the third quarter. Hayesville’s 10 points in the quarter broke no records, but a strong defense from the black and Vegas gold brigade helped the Jackets gain ground. The Knights managed just 7 points in the quarter which cut the lead to 34-29 with Hayesville having the momentum headed into the final period.
Things took a nose dive for the Jackets in the fourth. Hayesville was able to move the ball around enough to hit double-digits with 11 points. The Knights’ offense had their best quarter with 24 points, thanks in part to 10 points from the free throw line. Foul shots were a big part of Chatham Charter’s offense for the entire game as they took 25 of them compared to four for the Jackets. In fact, a look at the foul totals for each shows an underlying theme for the game as the Knights were called for eight fouls in the game while Hayesville was hit with 21 penalties in the 58-40 loss.
Although it ended sooner than desired, the Jackets had an excellent season. Coach Mike Cottrell’s squad ends the campaign with owning a 25-4 record, a Smoky Mountain Conference regular season championship, a conference tournament championship and a state ranking of 19th. Losing lone senior Mark Cothren will be a blow to next seasons’ team but having everyone else return along with younger talent joining the team will no doubt set the Jackets up as favorites for more championships.