Warren Wilson’s young Owls spread their wings

Fred McCormick

Looking at nearly a month of away games, the Warren Wilson Owls women’s basketball team played one of its best games at home.

Within the familiar confines of DeVries Gymnasium, the team’s array of young talent shined against Salem College, scoring 80 points for the second time this season. But more importantly, the game showcased the style of basketball that head coach Robin Martin believes will lead to a new era for the Owls.

Martin’s second year with Warren Wilson has brought an exciting brand of basketball to the women’s program. A roster loaded with eight freshmen and an accomplished senior scorer has the Owls playing winning basketball and on track for a return to postseason play.

The Owls started the season winning, going 6-3 through the first nine games. Freshman Danasia Dumas led Warren Wilson to a 67-65 victory over North Greenville, a NCAA Division II opponent. The schedule grew even more challenging in December, and the Owls lost four of five games, including a pair of blowout losses to Division I schools. Those losses were followed by a 54-point loss Jan. 4 to Western Carolina University.

“We wanted a tougher schedule to try to boost our power ranking,” Martin said. “If we want to make it to the national tournament for the (United States Collegiate Athletic Association), we need to have a tougher schedule with some Division I schools.”

After the loss to the Catamounts, the Owls rebounded with three straight wins, reestablishing their winning record they last had in early December.

“We’ve really focused on transition play these last three games,” Martin said following her team’s win against Salem. “It was probably the best that it has been all year last night.”

Four Owls scored in double digits against the Salem Spirits. Dumas led the way with 23, right around her average for the season. Senior Lilvia Bradbury, who scored her 1,000th point at the school earlier this season, put up 16 points and brought down seven rebounds.

But Martin was most encouraged by her team’s performance on the defensive side of the ball. “I’ve always said when defense becomes the best part of what we do, we’ll be unstoppable,” she said.

Looking to for momentum on the road, the Owls will rely heavily on defensive pressure to fuel their transition offense, which includes a deep pool of athletic players that can finish at the rim.

“Our offense is designed for everyone to get an open look,” Martin said. “I tell them all of the time that we just need to run and whoever is running that break gets the layup.”

And Martin adds that what her team lacks in size it makes up for in court vision and basketball ability.

“We’re fast,” she said. “We are one of the smaller teams in our league ... but our ability to pressure the ball and create turnovers makes up for that. We not only have depth as far as our shooting goes but as far as our athleticism is concerned too.”

Warren Wilson shot 50 percent from the field against Salem. Martin believes that those kinds of games are reasonable to expect from her team going forward.

“I would really like to see us win 15 games or more this year,” she said. “And with us playing so many games at home in February I think that the schedule is set up to help us do that.

“I think if we continue to play like we played against Salem it would be crazy to think that it’s not realistic” to go to the postseason, she said. “There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to put ourselves in a position to earn a bid.”