Warhorses fall in third round of state playoffs


Good news and bad news came for the Owen Warhorses last week.

The good news was two-fold - senior Mathew Brown became the team's third player to score his 1,000th career point in less than a month, and the Warhorses advanced deeper in the state playoffs than they had in a decade. The bad news came Feb. 25 when Owen lost, 80-71, to Forest Hills on the road.

Junior Ben Craig and senior Brian Bartlett picked up their 1,000th career points on Feb. 3 and 7, respectively. Brown's came in the second round of the Feb. 25 playoffs at home. But it was another statistic that tells the story of how hard Brown worked to get to 1,000, according to Warhorses head coach Chuck Robinson.

"People were so excited to see him get his 1,000th point that a lot of them didn't even realize he ended up with 20 rebounds that night," Robinson said. "That's how hard he was working under the basket."

Brown, averaged a double-double for the Warhorses this season. In fact, he recorded double-digit points and rebounds in 27 of the 29 games he played as a senior. He led the team in rebounding while being the Warhorses' second-leading scorer.

"Mathew knew he was close when the conference tournament rolled around," Robinson said. "He worked even harder in practices and games."

Brown didn't stop working after picking up his 1,000th point either, according to the numbers. He led the Warhorses with 27 points and 10 rebounds in the team's loss at Forest Hills, in the third round of the state playoffs.

Owen also received big contributions from Bartlett, who scored 22, and Craig (14 points) in the loss to the Yellowjackets.

"There were a lot of tears in that locker room after that game," Robinson said. "I told those (seniors) what a great four years it had been working with them. And most of those guys I've had up on varsity since they were sophomores."

The Warhorses came out flat in the first half against Forest Hills, according to Robinson. A hot start to the second half gave them a lead over the Yellowjackets, but a run by the home team late in the game proved too much to overcome.

"We just couldn't recover. They went up by six points really quick," he said. "We started fouling them with around a minute and a half left, and they hit all of their free throws."

The Warhorses finished the season 23-6, the team's best record in well over a decade.

"It's made my job easier as a coach," Robinson said. "Having kids like that with great parents, and the support of the Valley, which has been huge for us these last two years - all play a factor in what we've accomplished."

Basketball is not over for Brown, according to Robinson, who said he'll continue to help guide the center on his path to the next level.

"He has had some school interested in him," the coach said. "I'm working with some of those coaches for him. Some schools came to watch him in the conference tournament. One night we had four colleges there watching him."

Bartlett, who picked up his 1,000th point in Owen's final game of the regular season, may go another route, according to Robinson.

"Brian hasn't really decided what to do yet at the next level," he said. "He might be more interested in playing baseball at the next level, but he has had some looks from colleges that are interested in having him play basketball."

Craig, who still has another full season left to play for the Warhorses, will have an opportunity to add to his tally next season.

"The seniors told the underclassmen after the Forest Hills game that in order to be this successful they'll need to put in the work like they have," Robinson said. "And in order to keep winning they'll have to put in the work in the off-season. It's not a four-month sport anymore."

Robinson reflected on Brown, Bartlett and Craig all hitting for 1,000 points.

"Having three players with 1,000 career points on the same team is huge," Robinson said. "Those guys have really helped bring basketball back in the Swannanoa Valley."