Warriors edge 'Dogs in Watauga thriller

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   Tuesday night at Bayless Gymnasium, Carter County basketball received its first installment of Happy Valley vs. Hampton for 2002-03. If the second meeting between these two is as good as the first, ESPN should cover the ballgame.
   In a thrilling encounter, the Warriors held off the arch-rival Bulldogs for a 43-42 victory.
The game started off a little slow but developed into a hardwood gem that will undoubtedly be the talk of the rivalry. A controversial call, and a thrilling finish were just a taste of the heated one-point Happy Valley victory.
   The first half was a defensive struggle in which both clubs tested the waters. A halftime score of 18-14 was due largely in part to a pair of big three-point baskets from Hampton's Mitchell Morton and Happy Valley's Stephen Williams.
   Williams would go on to pace the Warriors for the better part of the second half, as his key three-pointers helped Happy Valley cling to a small lead for the duration of the second half.
   Bayless later commented on the performance that Williams turned in.
   "We can't score from the outside," Bayless said. "If he doesn't hit those threes we lose that game by 20 points."
   While Williams was guiding the Warriors, the Bulldogs leaned upon the play of senior Michael McCall. His eight third-quarter points kept Hampton in striking position as the fourth quarter began.
   Trailing by three as the period began, the Bulldogs stepped it up defensively, while moving out to slow down Williams. Happy Valley began to compete on the offensive glass and held onto the lead until late in the fourth.
   The two minutes would be classic HV vs. Hampton, as Charlie Bayless' patented slow-down offense was displayed in an effort to maintain a one-point lead.
   A costly traveling violation gave Hampton the basketball, and it would capitalize. Greg Osborne, who had hit a pair of big treys in the fourth, became the go-to player. His drive to the hole drew a foul and two successful foul shots gave Hampton the lead 42-41 with less than a minute to play.
   Then controversy struck. A disputed foul call gave Happy Valley the ball with 9.6 seconds to go on the clock. After a volley of timeouts, the Warriors inbounded the ball to point man Cody Whitlock.
   "I thought they had the ball," Whitlock said. "But after we drew up the play I was the safety valve on offense."
   Whitlock penetrated and drew the double team just when he couldn't find a passing lane he went for the shot.
   The resulting running jumper tickled the twine, and Hampton called time-out to set up a desperation attempt.
   The half-court effort drew iron but fell harmlessly aside as Happy Valley escaped with the one-point win.
   "It's a big win for the team," Whitlock said. "We grew up a lot tonight."
   After the game, Hampton skipper Buddy Hazelwood was visibly upset with the foul call, but stuck by his kids.
   "I'm proud of my boys -- they took it up a notch when they had to," Hazelwood said. "They are a great rival."
   Happy Valley 37
   Hampton 23
   The girls game came first and the pace was slow as both teams only managed a combined 23 points in the first half. The second period saw each team score only one basket setting up a 14-9 halftime score.
   The second half saw more action as Hampton junior Joy Gardner found her stride for a quarter. During an uncharacteristic night from behind the arc, she was still able to manage a solid second half hitting two threes.
   Hampton closed the lead to a mere two heading into the final stanza. The final period would be an offensive display for the Lady Warriors as Brandi Dugger and Terra Whaley led the way, combining for 11 of the 17 fourth quarter points for HV.
   After the contest Happy Valley head coach Ben Godsey was happy with the victory but stressed that some obstacles still remain.
   "We got a good start, and got after them early," Godsey said. "We are a young team and we get complacent at times, it takes us out of our offense, and we take bad shots."