It has been several years since the Warlassies advanced to the second round of the state playoffs, according to head coach Tim Raines, who has patrolled the sideline at Owen for more than 20 seasons.
So as the Warlassies’ season came to a close on Feb. 25 with a loss in the second round of the state playoffs to RS Central, Owen players were understandably disappointed but not defeated.
The Warlassies entered the playoffs as a number 14 seed after having won six of their final seven regular season games. They managed to win one of two games in the conference playoffs and lost by merely 8 to a Mountain Heritage team that lost one game during the regular season.
Owen hosted an athletic Forest Hills team in the first round of the playoffs on Feb. 23. The Warlassies carried a 12-point lead into the half and remained in control on their way to a convincing 70-51 victory.
Freshman Chesney Gardner led the team in scoring with 23 points, and sophomore Dee Graves finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The duo finished the season as the team’s top two leading scorers, with Gardner averaging 15.8 points per game and Graves 11.
With an opening round win, the Warlassies were on the road in Rutherfordton for the second round, where they faced the 25-3 RS Central Hilltoppers, a number 3 seed.
“We didn’t get off to a very good start,” Raines said. “They were really big and athletic and we tried to press them early to force turnovers, but that probably wasn’t the best strategy in the world.”
The Hilltoppers finished the first quarter with an 11-point lead before ultimately winning the game by 13.
“After that first quarter we pretty much played evenly with them,” Raines said. “We switched to a 2-3 zone and forced them to shoot from the outside. Dee (Graves) did a good job of rebounding the basketball, especially considering that they had two 6-footers.”
The loss was the end of an encouraging season for Raines and his team, who only lose two seniors to graduation.
“I’m excited about the future,” he said. “We’ve waited a long time to have this kind of success again. The kids are excited, and the coaches are excited. Obviously we’ll take some time off, but we’re ready to get back in the gym and get ready for next year.”
Raines is anticipating an even better season from the Warlassies next year.
“We think we are going to be highly competitive in the conference and in the state,” he said.
Basketball is not over for Raines and one of his players. The coach will coach the Blue team in the Blue-White All-Star game on Saturday, March 19 at Enka High School. He will be joined by assistant coaches Chasity Simpson, Mike Parham and Allyssa Hensley. Playing for the team is Owen senior Taylor Lovci, a consistent outside threat for the Warlassies throughout the season.
“It’s been great coaching Taylor these past two seasons since she moved here and joined us,” Raines said. “It’s an honor to be coaching her and the rest of the girls in that game.”