Despite stumble, the Owls look to finish the regular season strong

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

 A glance of the top teams on the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Women's Division II basketball poll tells you all you need to know about the  Warren Wilson College Owls this season. 

With only five games remaining in the regular season, the number 3 Owls have a historic year within reach.  But they'll have to get back to their winning ways to seize it.  On Jan. 26, Warren Wilson College lost to Johnson University, 91-82.

After an 0-3 start, Warren Wilson was nearly unbeatable for  more than two months. In 16 games, from November through nearly the end of January, the Owls were 14-2, with one of those losses coming Dec. 4 at the hands of UNC Asheville, a NCAA Division I program. 

Warren Wilson College junior Amber Godfrey drives into the lane against a Johnson University defender on Jan. 26 in a 91-82 home loss for the Owls.

Warren Wilson's performance through the first half of the season earned it a number 4 ranking in the coaches poll - the highest in the program's history. 

The Owls weren't finished making history. They returned to the court Jan. 6 on the road against NCAA D-II opponent Oakland City University where they shocked the Lady Oaks and escaped with an 83-77 victory. 

Junior Danasia Dumas, the Owls top-scorer each of the past three seasons, brings the ball up the court against Johnson University on Jan. 26.

It was the first time the Owls won what is typically referred to as a guarantee game, according to head coach Robin Davis, in her fourth season with the program. 

"We were paid to travel there," Davis said of the Indiana college. "Those are games those larger schools typically expect to win. But we left with the win that night."

Not only was the win the fifth straight for the Owls; it also was an important statement, according to Davis.

"We came into that game thinking we were going to win," she said. "We got to that gym and that team sat through half of warm-ups and just stared at us like we weren't anything. My team has a certain swag to them, and when a team underestimates them that's all my team needs to give them the business."

Warren Wilson College freshman Tierney Porter puts up a three-pointer in front of the Johnson University bench as the Owls suffered a rare loss on Jan. 26.

Warren Wilson continued winning in the coming weeks on a road trip that took them to Pennsylvania. 

"We took that trip to play (University of) Valley Forge and Central Penn (College) because of a lot of the schools in our conference are up there and they play those teams," Davis said. "I got really tired of hearing in the coaches poll meetings that we don't play a common opponent, so its difficult for those coaches to know who we're playing."

The Owls throttled Valley Forge, 95-51, on the strength of a "phenomenal defensive performance,"  Davis said.

"It was a similar atmosphere to the Oakland City game," she said. "They hardly warmed up, they were taking media pictures before the game, they really thought they were going to blow us out."

The second game scheduled for the trip, against Davis College, was cancelled after inclement weather forced the rescheduling of multiple local high school games. But the Owls weren't finished winning. 

Davis and her team picked up two more wins in the Mid-Atlantic Christian Classic, including a 92-59 victory over host school Mid-Atlantic Christian University, in which junior Danasia Dumas matched her career-high with 35 points. 

"She's really found her groove," Davis said of Dumas, who picked up her 1,000th career point for the Owls a year ago but struggled to get on track when this season began. "She's back to being an automatic scoring threat for us."

Amber Godfrey, Allison Church and a handful of athletic freshmen have been instrumental in the Owls' pursuit of a spot in the USCAA D-II postseason tournament, which the team was denied last season in spite of tying a program record with 17 wins. 

"I always tell my players we're one loss away from not getting in," Davis said. 

So back-to-back home losses against Johnson University and Johnson & Wales University could hurt the Owls as they look to secure a spot in this year's tournament. To get in, the team will have to battle its toughest opponent. 

"The only thing that can beat us is ourselves," Davis said. "They know that there is a realistic chance of us getting into the national championship tournament and winning it."