Avery has a tough 1A basketball program, as they consistently advance deep into the NCHSAA 1A playoffs each season.
Last year, the Vikings dished out a 48-34 loss to the Huskies in the match up in Avery, prior to placing in the top eight 1A teams in North Carolina in the NCHSAA Playoffs, with a 20-7 season.
The victory at Avery was the Lady Huskies first victory over the Vikings on the road since 2005, and it was not an easy affair for Ashe. With the game being the season opener for the Vikings, on looking fans could not tell this as they played the now 3-0 Huskies tight for 29 minutes of the 32-minute game.
Ashe clung to a small five-point lead, 51-46, with three minutes remaining in the game. The Lady Huskies closed the game with authority, scoring nine points in the final ninety seconds, to secure the 65-50 final victory.
The game opened up with Ashe jumping out to an early 12-2 lead in the opening minutes, but Avery pulled back within four in the midst of the first quarter. Another run by the Lady Huskies gave Ashe a 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Ashe continued their momentum in the second quarter as they simply took charge of the game. The Vikings were limited on offense, as the Huskies’ tenacious defense only allowed them to score nine points in the eight-minute quarter, while Ashe tallied up 15 points in the quarter, giving the Huskies a 36-23 halftime lead.
The Huskies’ momentum came to a crashing halt in the third quarter when the Vikings exited halftime on a mission. After being outscored by thirteen points in the first half, they cut their deficit to a minute four points in the third quarter, setting the stage for an exciting finish. Ashe scored all eight of their points in the first four minutes of the quarter, and ended the quarter on a four-minute drought, during which time, Avery scored ten points to bring the score to 44-40 at the end of the third.
Ashe had a tough task of protecting a four-point lead with eight minutes remaining in the game. After the first minute of the quarter, Ashe’s offense had been silenced for over five minutes prior to Mallary Clay taking charge for Ashe. Off of a missed free throw, Clay out of sheer hustle, grabbed the offensive rebound, and went back up, scoring the first Husky points in over five minutes, and giving Ashe a 46-40 lead. After a defensive stop on the Vikings’ next possession, Clay once again scored with a lay up, stretching Ashe’s lead once again, this time to eight points, 48-40.
A huge play followed for Ashe’s defense when the Vikings’ ball handler beat the Huskies’ defender, and appeared to have an open lay up. Caitlin Elliott was able to help her teammate and rotated over to the left side of the lane. Elliott planted her feet, and drew a charge, creating a turnover, and charging a foul against the Vikings, which brought the Husky fans to their feet.
Ashe took advantage of the big play, with yet another basket by Clay, which gave the Huskies a 50-40 lead with over five minutes remaining in the game.
Avery was finally able to break their three minute drought, and scored a basket to start their chipping into the Huskies’ lead. Avery chipped away at the Huskies’ lead till it was a vice point differential at 51-46 with 3:11 remaining in the game.
The Huskies and Vikings traded baskets down to the 1:30 mark, when Shelly Barker drained a free throw to give the Huskies a 56-48 lead, but a basket by the Vikings on their ensuing possession brought them within six points, the closest they would be for the remainder of the game, with the score at 56-50.
Ashe closed out the final minute by scoring nine more points, and holding the Vikings scoreless to show a well-disciplined unit. The Huskies handled the defensive pressure from their opponents, made key free throws, used efficient clock management, and excellent composure to earn the victory.
McNeil scored six points in the final minute, and finished with an impressive 24 for the game. Kendra Yearick closed the game for the Huskies with a three-point play, which gave her a total of 12 points for the game to follow McNeil. Clay, who scored three key baskets to start the game-ending run for the Huskies, finished with eleven points. Chandler Christensen scored 10 for Ashe, and Shelly Barker added six points, then Caitlin Elliott rounded out the scoring with one point.
The victory over Avery marked the Lady Huskies’ 11 straight non-conference victory outside of tournament play in the past two seasons. The Huskies’ last non-conference loss was at Avery last season with a 48-34 loss on November 30 of 2007. The Huskies last loss in non-conference action before that dated back to December 1 of 2006, which was also at Avery with a tough 54-52 loss to the Vikings.
In the previous two seasons for Ashe, they tallied 44 combined victories, 22 in each season, and advanced at least two rounds into the NCHSAA Playoffs. In 2006-07, the Huskies moved to the Sectional Finals, which they lost to Salisbury 74-60.
In 2007-08, the Huskies with one more win to their record than the season prior, met Salisbury in the Section Semi-Finals, and once again, Salisbury claimed the victory with a 65-37 victory.
This season, the Huskies are off to a better start with a 3-0 initiation of the season.
The Huskies next opponent they face is tonight in the Huskies’ home opener for the 2008-09 season against the Alleghany Trojans. Alleghany is 2-0 for the season with a 54-41 victory over West Wilkes on December 3, and then a 48-38 victory over South Stokes last Friday.
West Wilkes, whom Ashe will face later in the season, is 1-2 on the season. The Blackhawks opened up their 2008-09 campaign with a 65-36 romping of North Wilkes, but then lost their next two to Alleghany, and Wilkes Central. Central grabbed a 66-42 victory over the Blackhawks in a Wilkes County showdown.
Early season outlooks around the conference depicts Ashe, Starmount, and North Surry to be the teams to beat in the MVAC.
Starmount will feature multiple new faces this year, which includes a transfer from Bishop McGuinness, and two transfers from Forbush.
The Huskies conference schedule begins next Friday when they travel to Starmount for an early crucial MVAC game. They host the Pioneers from Watauga Friday evening following the Alleghany game this evening.