Warhorses look to rebound this winter

Tom Flynn
Special To The Black Mountain News

Former Owen basketball standout Clint McElrath returns for his second year leading the Warhorses this winter, and along with his player expects great improvement over a team that struggled with a 3-22 mark last year.

Although a relative newcomer to the head coaching ranks at Owen, McElrath is a name not new to Warhorse fans. He graduated from the school in 2002 and played a portion of his career for his father, Dean McElrath. Dean coached the Warhorses on the court for five years and also coached softball at Owen for 25 years and is a member of the high school’s Hall of Fame.

Clint was a three-year varsity player and made all-conference two of those three years. “I was just your average, decently-good player,” said the head coach.

Noah Moore drives to the hoop on Nov. 27 as the Warhorses fall to Roberson, 73-67, in their home opener on Nov. 27.

After high school, he attended Western Carolina before graduating from Appalachian State. He entered the teaching ranks following college and spent the first eight years of his career at Pisgah High School, where he was also an assistant for the boys’ varsity team. While on staff with the Bears, the squad made a visit to the state championship game and made multiple extended runs in the NCHSAA playoffs.

Living in Black Mountain, he faced a 40-minute commute to Pisgah, and when McElrath and his wife Melissa welcomed their first child, Jade, four years ago, the coach looked for a shorter commute.

Head coach Clint McElrath looks on during the Warhorses' 73-67 loss to the Roberson Rams on Nov. 27, at Owen High School.

“I decided it was a time to get a little bit closer, so I could go home and see her more often,” said McElrath. When a position opened up at Owen, he also returned to his home high school.

He took two years off from coaching, but helped former head coach Chuck Robinson scout opponents during that time. When Robinson departed following the 2016-2017 season, McElrath took on the role. 

On the court, the Warhorses look to get the ball up the floor quickly. “Our goal is to get out in transition,” said McElrath. “We want to try for quick basket. If it’s not there, then we want to set up our offense and run through it.”

Once in their half-court set, McElrath runs a “read and react” scheme that he brought with him from Pisgah. Off-ball players read the player with the ball, as well as the man guarding them.

“That might lead you to set a screen or make a backdoor cut. Depending on what they show you and how you react to it,” said McElrath.

Owen senior Audun Meyers lays the ball up against a Roberson defender in the home opener for the Warhorses on Nov. 27.

Defensively, the Warhorses run a mixture of a man-to-man and a 1-3-1 zone. They press at times, but are not overly aggressive so that they stay out of foul trouble and keep their energy up throughout four quarters.

In their opener on November 27, the Warhorse dropped a 73-67 decision to T.C. Roberson, but possessed the ball better than they did last year. The offensive highlight from opening night was 38 points from senior Noah Moore.

“He can shoot the three, and he’s worked really hard in the offseason and I think he’s going to have a great season,” said McElrath.

“I feel comfortable with the offense. I feel it will definitely run more smoothly this year than last year, because I feel like our confidence is up,” said Moore.

Another senior that McElrath sees as a big contributor is Ty Davidson. “Ty is a guard who can really do anything. He’s very good driving to the basket and he led us last year in assists, steals and defensive stops. He gives us another scoring option and he’s a great facilitator,” said McElrath.

Davidson arrives from the Warhorses’ football team where he played running back and defensive back.

“In my first basketball practice, I was a little winded. So the biggest thing was getting back into basketball shape,” said Davidson.

“My role as a point guard is as a pass-first type of guy. I look to get my teammates open. Of course I like to create for myself as well. That’s the biggest role of a point guard – you have to be pass first and you have to have that mentality to be a leader,” said Davidson. “For the team overall, I think our biggest goal is to have a winning season – to win more games this year and make the playoffs.”

The coach will also look to senior Wyatt Lehman, who returns to the court from a Warhorses’ soccer team that went 15-5 this fall. “He’s going to help us out on the boards and he’s going to be able to drop in somewhere between eight and 12 points every game. He’s also going to get ten or so rebounds, so it’s awesome to have somebody like that in there,” said McElrath.

Sophomore Caleb Scott looks on as the Warhorses fell to Roberson in their home opener on Nov. 27.

Augmenting the seniors will be 6’3” sophomore forward, Caleb Scott.  

“He’s been a nice surprise. He came out has just really had a great work ethic and he’s able to play outside and shoot that three, and he’s such a big body he’s also able to bang inside,” said McElrath.

Seniors Phoenix Murphy-Carlson and Audun Meyers are two players that the Warhorses will turn to as well for their all-in approach to the game. Meyers quarterbacked the Warhorses football team this fall.

The team and their coach speak in perfect unison on where they hope to head this winter.

“We’re hoping to win more than half of our games this year and make it to the end round of the conference championship and then make it to the playoffs,” said Moore.