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WEEKLY WATCH: Basketball amps up and COVID-19 affects season schedules
WEEKLY WATCH

WEEKLY WATCH: Basketball amps up and COVID-19 affects season schedules

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Newton-Conover at Bandys 1.jpg

Newton-Conover's Grace Loftin (33) goes between Bandys' Whitney Drummond (5) and Cailyn Huggins (23) for a layup in a file photo from earlier this season. 

The calendar turns to February, and as is usually the case, high school basketball teams around the area amp up the stretch run to determine which teams will play in the state playoffs. However, quarantines have made things more confusing than ever with athletic departments scrambling to figure out how to get games rescheduled.

Along with basketball, swimming heads to regionals this week. Soccer and lacrosse schedules are underway and have reached week two of the seven-week schedule.

Here’s a look at the week ahead:

1) Swimming regionals

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association is scheduled to host regionals throughout the state this weekend. All West Regionals will be at the Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatic Center from Friday through Sunday.

As of last Saturday (January 29), participants have yet to be announced by the NCHSAA, but because of the pandemic, the format for regional qualifiers has changed. Before, swimmers that met a qualifying time automatic advanced to regionals with others that met consideration times filling any remaining open slots to fill heats for each race. This year, the best 12 times for each individual race and team relays will be tabbed for regionals.

A preview will be published later this week with a complete listing of area swimmers slated to participate.

2) Quarantine updates

No area conference has been more hurt by quarantines due to COVID-19 protocols than the Northwestern Foothills 2A in boys’ basketball. Through last week, without quarantines, eight games should have been played by each team. Only Hibriten and Bunker Hill have played more than half that total, with five each. However, Bunker Hill will sit out a quarantine this week. Half of the eight-team conference – Patton, East Burke, West Iredell and Fred T. Foard – has played only three games. Draughn and West Caldwell have four each.

Four of the boys teams – Bunker Hill, Draughn, Foard and West Iredell – start this week in quarantine. With the regular season ending on a hard deadline of February 19, and a maximum of three games a week permitted by the NCHSAA (two regularly scheduled contests plus one make-up from COVID or weather-related postponements), only Hibriten could possibly play the maximum 14 games allowed this season. It currently has rescheduled all earlier postponements except for a home contest against Draughn.

In an email sent out to area media outlets last Friday, Bunker Hill athletic director James Byrd said,

“The Northwestern Foothills Athletic Conference ADs met this morning to determine how to play out the remainder of the season in light of the number or quarantines currently affecting the schedule. It was decided to play the next two weeks as closely to the original schedule as possible while making up missed games. The ADs will come together again in two weeks to see what might need to happen with the final week of play.”

In an article published in the Morganton News Herald, Patton boys coach Dennis Brittain speculated that “the league may decide to shut down all its boys’ teams for a few weeks and play an end-of-season tournament, with the two teams that reach the finals representing the league in the state playoffs.”

On the girls side of the same conference, seven of the eight teams have played at least six games, so the situation isn’t as dire. However, Draughn has taken to the floor three times and is not scheduled to play again until this Friday against Patton. West Caldwell also entered its second quarantine tenure last week. The Warriors are also due back this Friday.

In the Northwestern 3A-4A Conference, South Caldwell and McDowell have played six or more games with Freedom at just three, sitting out since January 15. The Patriots (3-0) are currently on the schedule to play at Alexander Central (3-1 NWC) this Thursday, in what would be a key conference battle. Hickory (3-1 (NWC) finally played last Saturday for the first time since January 15, which was the first conference game since January 12.

For the boys, Alexander Central and Freedom start the week in quarantine, yet due to return by the end of the week. The Cougars (3-1 NWC) are a half-game behind Hickory (4-1) in the league race.

3) Bunker Hill at Fred T. Foard (Tuesday) vs. Patton girls basketball (Thursday)

Previewed in this column last week, the Bears game against Foard was scheduled for last Tuesday before a postponement pushed it to this week.

Currently, unbeaten Bunker Hill (6-0) has a shot to take a huge step ahead with a win over second-place Foard (5-1) and Patton (4-3), a team which the Bears had battled for second place the previous two seasons.

Foard also has a shot to put its marker for one of two state playoff berths allotted to the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference this season. The Tigers are tied with Draughn (2-1) in the loss column with the Wildcats beating Foard in early January.

Conference standings aside, the game between the Bears and Tigers will feature two of the better guards in the area – Alexis Wolgemuth of Foard and Addie Wray of Bunker Hill. Both are genuine scoring machines and have the ability to get other players involved on offense.

4) Watauga at Hickory boys soccer (Monday)

The last three seasons of the Northwestern 3A-4A Conference has provided stellar soccer between the league’s top two 3A schools. In 2017, Hickory finished first but the Pioneers spoiled Hickory’s perfect conference season with a win in Boone. A year later, the Red Tornadoes and Watuaga finished in a tie for first at 12-2, but the Pioneers won a tiebreaker game 4-3 to determine the league’s top playoff berth for the state tournament. Last season, Watauga swept Hickory in both matches and held the title outright.

Barring a change in the final NCHSAA realignment, they’ll bid farewell to conference play against each other for at least the next four seasons.

For now, Boone and Hickory are scheduled to square off for the first time on Monday, weather permitting. The Red Tornadoes are off to a 2-0 start with wins over McDowell and Freedom. Senior Jose Vallecillos has three goals to lead Hickory while fellow senior Carter Holt has a pair of goals and three assists. Mackenzie Tonks has allowed one goal on eight shots. The Pioneers shutout South Caldwell 4-0 in their only match last week.

5) Maiden at North Lincoln (Wednesday), at Lake Norman Charter boys basketball (Friday)

The South Fork 2A Conference boys chase is a fun one with five teams within two games of each other in the loss column. Currently in fifth place, Maiden (4-3) has a big week ahead to stay in the hunt for two state playoff berths from the conference. This is an essential stretch for a young team.

After facing winless West Lincoln on Tuesday, Maiden will travel to North Lincoln (5-1) the next day to take on the league leader. In what is a makeup game from January, this is scheduled to be the first of two meetings over seven days. Maiden will host the return game the following Tuesday. North Lincoln suffered its first loss last Wednesday in overtime to Lake Norman Charter.

On Friday, the Blue Devils go to Lake Norman Charter (5-2) to battle the defending conference champs. In the first game back on January 12, Maiden led the Knights by nine at the half before Lake Norman Charter used a big third quarter to pull ahead and win 59-54. Starting 1-2 Lake Norman Charter stayed in the race with four straight victories, including the wins over Maiden, Lake Norman Charter, as well as a 73-47 rout over East Lincoln (6-2), avenging a two-point loss in the season opener.

After the two games with North Lincoln sandwiched around Lake Norman Charter, Maiden then goes to East Lincoln.

HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY SCHEDULE:

Schedules listed are taken from information provided by the conference secretaries, athletic departments of individual schools, from information published by the schools on its websites, or on maxpreps.com. Schedules are subject to change without notice.

NOTE FOR BASKETBALL: All times are varsity times approximate, Basketball games are girl-boy varsity doubleheaders, played after the completion of junior varsity which starts at 4 p.m. (4:30 if no JV girls game is played). Varsity girls start around 6:30 p.m. with the boys to follow around 8 p.m. (earlier if no JV girls game). South Fork 2A Conference girls varsity will start after the JV girls, then JV boys followed by the boys varsity.

Attendance at games is limited to 25 persons per game with tickets sold only by the home team. Most games are streamed live by the home school. Here are the links to those web streams.

SOUTH FORK 2A CONFERENCE: All games are in sfcnetwork.tv. Click on the link, then click on the school logo at the top of the page for the game of interest. (fee required.)

NORTHWESTERN FOOTHILLS 2A CONFERENCE:

Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill High School Facebook Page (fee required)

Draughn: DHS Live on YouTube

East Burke: East Burke High Facebook Page

Fred T. Foard: Fred T. Foard High School Facebook Page (fee required)

Hibriten: Hibriten High School on YouTube

Patton: Patton High Basketball on Facebook

West Caldwell: WCHS TV on YouTube

West Iredell: NHFS Network (subscription fee required)

NORTHWESTERN 3A-4A CONFERENCE:

Alexander Central: NFHS Network (subscription fee required)

Freedom: FHS Live on YouTube or Patriot Nation – Freedom Patriot Faithful

Hickory: Hickory High Boys Basketball on Facebook

McDowell: McDowell High Athletics Facebook page

St. Stephens: Tribal Sports Network on Facebook (fee required)

South Caldwell: SCHS Stream on YouTube

Watauga: NFHS Network (subscription fee required)

Week of February 1-6

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1

LACROSSE (girls/ boys DH)

Conference 15 (girls)/ Conference 19 (boys)

TC Roberson at Patton, 4:30/ 6:30 p.m.

Asheville at St. Stephens, 5/ 6:30 p.m.

BOYS SOCCER

Northwestern 3A-4A Conference

Freedom at St. Stephens, 5 p.m.

McDowell at South Caldwell, 6 p.m.

Watauga at Hickory, 6 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Patton at Hibriten, 6:30 p.m.

West Caldwell at Bunker Hill, 6:30 p.m.

West Iredell at Fred T. Foard, 6:30 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Newton-Conover at West Lincoln, 4 p.m.

Maiden at Lake Norman Charter, 5 p.m.

Lincolnton at Bandys, 5:30 p.m.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2

BASKETBALL (girls/ boys DH)

Northwestern 3A-4A Conference

Watauga at Alexander Central (girls only), 6 p.m.

McDowell at St. Stephens, 6/ 7:30 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Bunker Hill at Fred T. Foard (girls only), 6 p.m.

West Caldwell at Patton (boys only), 6 p.m.

Hibriten at East Burke, 6:30/ 8 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Bandys at Newton-Conover, 4:30/ 7:30 p.m.

West Lincoln at Maiden, 4:30/ 7:30 p.m.

Non-Conference

South Caldwell at Hunter Huss, 6/ 7:30 p.m.

LACROSSE (girls/ boys DH)

Conference 15 (girls)/ Conference 19 (boys)

Watauga at Hickory, 4:30/ 6:30 p.m.

BOYS SOCCER

South Fork 2A Conference

Maiden at Bandys, 4:30 p.m.

Non-Conference

Hickory at Forestview, 6:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3

BASKETBALL

Northwestern 3A-4A Conference

Hickory at Watauga (girls only), 6 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Maiden at North Lincoln, 5:15/ 8 p.m.

LACROSSE

Conference 15 (girls)

Patton at Watauga, 4:30 p.m.

BOYS SOCCER

Northwestern 3A-4A Conference

Alexander Central at McDowell, 6 p.m.

St. Stephens at Watauga, 6 p.m.

South Caldwell at Freedom, 6 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

East Burke at West Caldwell, 5 p.m.

Patton at Fred T. Foard, 5 p.m.

Bunker Hill at Hibriten, 6:30 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Lake Norman Charter at Newton-Conover, 5 p.m.

North Lincoln at Maiden, 5 p.m.

East Lincoln at Bandys, 5:30 p.m.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4

BASKETBALL (girls/ boys DH)

Northwestern 3A-4A Conference

Freedom at Alexander Central (girls only), 6 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

East Burke at Fred T. Foard, 6/ 7:30 p.m.

Patton at Bunker Hill (girls only), 6:30 p.m.

West Iredell at Hibriten, 6:30/ 8 p.m.

Non-Conference

Moravian Prep at Freedom (boys only), 6 p.m.

LACROSSE (girls/ boys DH)

Conference 15 (girls/ Conference 19 (boys)

Patton at Hickory (girls only), 4:30 p.m.

St. Stephens at Watauga 4:30/ 6:30 p.m.

BOYS SOCCER

Northwestern 3A-4A Conference

Freedom at Alexander Central, 5 p.m.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5

NCHSAA SWIMMING REGIONALS

1A-2A West Regional at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatic Center:

Girls, 2:30 p.m.

Boys, 7 p.m.

BASKETBALL (girls/ boys DH)

Northwestern 3A/ 4A Conference

Watauga at Freedom (boys only), 6 p.m.

Hickory at South Caldwell, 6/ 7:30 p.m.

St. Stephens at Alexander Central, 6/ 7:30 p.m.

Watauga at McDowell (girls only), 6:30 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Patton at Draughn (girls only), 6 p.m.

West Caldwell at East Burke (boys only), 6 p.m.

Patton at Hibriten (boys only), 7 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Maiden at Lake Norman Charter, 4:30/ 7:30 p.m.

Lincolnton at Bandys, 5:15/ 8 p.m.

West Lincoln at Newton-Conover, 4:30/ 7:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6

NCHSAA SWIMMING REGIONALS

3A West Regional, Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatic Center

Girls, 2:30 p.m.

Boys, 7 p.m.

BASKETBALL

Northwestern 3A-4A Conference

McDowell at Freedom (boys only), noon

Alexander Central at South Caldwell (boys only), 2 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Draughn at Hibriten (girls only), 1 p.m.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7

NCHSAA SWIMMING REGIONALS

4A West Regional, Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatic Center

Girls, 2:30 p.m.

Boys, 7 p.m.

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