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.
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% 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.
Now Hayesville will hit the road for the first time in the state tournament. The Jackets will travel to Siler City Saturday, Feb. 29 to face Chatham Charter. On paper, the game looks to be a strong match-up as Hayesville enters the event as the five seed and Chatham a four seed. Game time had not been announced at the time of writing this article.
Leaders vs Pine Lake
Jake McTaggart: 28 points
Kolbe Ashe: 14 points
Hayden McClure: 12 points
Blake McClure: 7 points