Warhorses stumble but don't fall

Loss to Avery is in the past for Owen

Fred McCormick

A 76-74  loss at home to Western Highland Conference powerhouse Avery on Jan. 16 means the Owen Warhorses will not be able to win the conference outright this year as they set out to do this season.

But adversity will only help the Warhorses finish the season strong and get ready for what head coach Chuck Robinson hopes will be a deep run in the state playoffs.

Owen suffered a 74-67 defeat at the hands of Avery back in early-December in Newland. The game in the Swannanoa Valley would have allowed the Warhorses to split the season series with the Vikings, a team that hasn't lost a conference game since 2012.

"It was a big game for us," Robinson said. "The boys were ready and we wanted it bad, but we came up a little short. For the first time this year a team out-rebounded us and that's why we lost."

Ben Craig, the Warhorses' leading scorer this year,  shoots a three-pointer against Mitchell on Jan. 20.

The Warhorses "did nothing but rebounding drills" in the days following the loss, according to Robinson.

"Avery is a great team and they're so well-coached," he said.

Noah Roark shoots a floater over a Mitchell defender on the baseline in the Warhorses' 76-61 victory.

The Warhorses returned to their winning ways on Jan. 20, with a convincing 76-61 win against the visiting Mitchell Mountaineers. Owen improved to 14-3 (5-2 in the WHC) on the season with the win.

The Warhorses traveled to Burnsville on Jan. 24 to face Mountain Heritage (results not available as of deadline), a team Owen beat 60-57 on Dec. 16. Robinson's team needs to win the final six games of the season to win 20 games, another goal for the Warhorses heading into the season.

"We don't want to lose anymore games this year of course," Robinson said. "Winning 20 games in a season is a difficult thing to do in any conference, especially one as competitive as the Western Highlands Conference."

In order to continue playing winning basketball the Warhorses need to "keep doing what we've been doing," according to Robinson, "which is to focus on the little things."

The Warhorses could end up facing Avery for a third time this season in the conference tournament, which will be held at Owen, in February.

"The boys have already said that they've got to get one more shot at Avery in the conference tournament," Robinson said. "They've already set that goal and if we both keep winning then that really could happen."