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Sugar Bears downed by Titans at WCU exhibition game

Jan. 1—CULLOWHEE — The Sugar Bears were taken down by the McDowell Titans 61-28 during a battle of the conferences on Saturday at Western Carolina University's Ramsey Center.

All Mountain 7 Conference teams were pitted against the Mountain Athletic Conference in the "Catamount Clash of the Conferences," giving the two conferences a chance to play at the Ramsey Center, where the Catamounts play basketball.

"It was an awesome experience," said Pisgah head coach Brandon Holloway. "Especially the opportunity for the majority of these kids who won't get to play in a college arena. To get to play on that floor was exciting for our girls, and I thought Western did an unbelievable job of hospitality and setting it up to make it a special night."

The 5-3 Sugar Bears drew the 7-1 Lady Titans, who were riding a five-game winning streak. Pisgah had beaten two MAC teams before playing McDowell: Enka twice and Erwin once.

"Going into that game, we had high expectations and were open for a better showing and better preparation. We knew McDowell was talented and would be a good test for us," Holloway said.

The Lady Titans took off to a 31-17 first half, lead by three double-digit scoring nights for juniors Kenley Stewart and Sage Young, as well as sophomore Clara McCartha. The second half wasn't any better for Pisgah as McDowell outscored the Sugar Bears 30-11 to win the game.

"McDowell played top of their game and played extremely well. They had a great game plan," Holloway said. "They got those 50-50 balls, shot really well and played tremendous defense."

Holloway said the college-length court at the Ramsey Center turned out to be a boon for McDowell.

"McDowell has a college-length court, and you could tell it was not unusual for them. We didn't do a good job adapting to the extra footage," he said.

Part of the problem for Pisgah was missing star guard Whitney Boone, who was out for the game.

"She's one of our main 'glue' players for this team," Holloway said. "The flu bug got us last week, and we had several girls out again on Saturday. We just didn't have that zip we've had and they handled adversity better than we did."

Although the Sugar Bears were short-handed, it gave some younger girls the chance to play.

"Those girls getting that opportunity to be on that court and it will help them out later on down the road," Holloway said.

Pisgah played in a Christmas tournament over break at Cherokee High School.

You don't want to take a break," Holloway said. "We'll, continue to push ourselves against quality teams to find any weaknesses before we get to the thick of the conference."

The Sugar Bears (5-3, 1-0 in Mountain 7) opened the tournament against Mount Tabor (4-3) on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

"We want to be in tournaments that have teams that will definitely test us. It's fun, and you want to win these nonconference games, but the bottom line is conference is what we're shooting for. We use these games to prepare for the bigger goal."