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Owen loses heart-breaker in conference final

Warhorses fall to Avery Vikings in WHC championship game, begin state playoffs at home on Feb. 21

Fred McCormick
fred@blackmountainnews.com

The Owen High Warhorses closed out the Western Highlands Conference Tournament on opposite sides of a pair of games decided in the final seconds Feb. 14 and 17.

A half-court shot from senior Kobe Bartlett lifted Owen past Mountain Heritage in the semi-final round, setting up a championship game, which the Warhorses lost 70-69 to Avery.

Owen senior Brian Bartlett puts up the final shot against Avery in the Western Highlands Conference championship game, which the Warhorses lost 70-69.

Owen hosted the tournament, which decided the conference’s champions for the girls and boys teams. The Warhorses and Warlassies both advanced to the semi-final round with victories to open the tournament.

The Warlassies fell 49-39 to Mountain Heritage in the second round, but the Warhorses found themselves in a battle with the Cougars later that night.

After erupting for 98 points in their opening-round win over the Patriots, the Warhorses were engaged in a defensive struggle with the Cougars in the first half of the semi-final game. Despite taking a 25-22 lead into the half, Owen found itself down in the final seconds of the game.

Kobe Bartlett, who scored 12 against the Cougars, pulled down a rebound off a missed Mountain Heritage free throw with just over six seconds remaining in the game. Bartlett advanced the ball with the Warhorses down 55-53 and pulled up from just inside half court, hitting the game-winning 3-pointer.

Senior Kobe Bartlett puts up 3 of his 12 points against Mountain Heritage in the Western Highlands Conference Tournament semi-final round. Bartlett would go on to hit the game-winner from just inside half-court.

The dramatic win led to a conference final match-up between Owen and Avery, which entered the game on a 54-game WHC winning streak. The Vikings had last played the Warhorses on Jan. 16, escaping with a 76-74 win. The championship game proved to be even tighter.

Six points separated Owen and Avery going into the half, but the Warhorses owned the third quarter, outscoring Avery by 8 and carrying a 2-point lead into the fourth.

The Warhorses increased that lead to 6 midway through the quarter, but the Vikings took a 64-63 lead late. A Brian Bartlett free throw put Owen ahead with under a minute to play, but the ensuing Vikings' possession gave Avery the 70-69 advantage with under a second remaining.

Brian Bartlett's potentially game-winning shot sailed over the rim as time ticked off the clock, giving Avery its 55th straight WHC victory.

The 21-5 Warhorses earned a number 6 seed in the state playoffs, which gave them home-court advantage against the Parkwood High School Rebels to open the tournament on Feb. 21 (results not available as of deadline).

The 17-5 Warlassies were ranked number 20 heading into the tournament, and traveled on Feb. 21 to Trinity, just outside of Winston-Salem to take on the 10th-seeded Bulldogs.