In late January, the Warren Wilson Owls came back from eight points down with under a minute left against Piedmont International to claim a thrilling 77-75 victory.
Senior Danasia “Piggy” Dumas, the Swannanoa Valley’s top college scorer, buried 34 points including the game-winner. She averages just over 25 points per outing and sealed the fifth win in the Owls’ current six-game winning streak that had them at an even 11-11 on Feb. 1.
“I think on our six-game streak, the good thing that we’ve had happen, especially when we’re on the road, is that we’ve had a different scoring leader for a couple of games,” said Owls’ fifth-year head coach, Robin Martin. “We’ve had a little bit better offensive consistency and balance, with more people scoring in double figures than just Piggy, so that’s been beneficial.”
A huge boost to the Owls this semester has been the return of senior guard, Amber Godfrey.
Godfrey took the first semester off from her college career and has stepped right back into a leading role upon her return to Swannanoa. She was named a USCAA All-American in 2017-18.
“She’s fast so it gives us a little more depth and more offensive threat. So, we’re really just coming together offensively,” said Martin.
Ironically, the head coach had mixed feelings about the dramatic win over Piedmont, a team they’d previously beaten by five on Dec. 7.
“I don’t know that much went right in that game, to be honest, if you look at it from a coach’s standpoint,” said Martin. “But we were down by eight, with 40 seconds left in the game, and somehow managed to put up a win. They never gave up.”
After winning six straight, the Owls are ranked fourth in the USCAA’s Division II. It’s the same ranking they had at this time last year, although they posted what should prove a better record in 2018 with an overall 19-8 mark.
The ranking puts them on a solid path to a berth in the USCAA’s postseason, but the Owls have an additional requirement. “The issue for us is that we have to stay at .500 (or above). If we go below, then our school rule is that we can’t participate in the playoffs,” said Martin.
Doing a quick accounting of their five remaining opponents beginning with February 2 – Johnson & Wales (N.C.), Mid-Atlantic Christian, Toccoa Falls, Apprentice School, and Belmont Abbey – the Owls are in good stead. They’ve previously faced and beaten four of the five, and haven’t yet faced Belmont Abbey.
Ironically, the Owls are best on the road. This season they are 3-3 at home and 8-7 on the road. Warren Wilson athletes, in addition to practices and classwork, are members of work crews that support the needs of the college and keep them connected to the demands of the working world.
“I think when we’re on the road, especially when we’re on trips and we’re there overnight – we’re just there for one purpose,” said Martin. “At home they come out of class, out of work, and they’re rushing around and it’s hard to get them completely focused on a basketball game.”
The Owls have a deep and vocal bench, and on the court have developed the elusive quality of all great teams, chemistry. As they bear down toward the postseason, Martin has focused the squad on developing the mental toughness required of overcoming adversity. Last year, the team dropped a 73-70 decision to Penn State – Brandywine in the USCAA national quarterfinals.
“We can come out and play defense, and we can pretty much compete with anybody. We can put the ball in the basket. So, we have the pieces there. It's just how we respond to adversity at times,” said Martin. “We have five games left and this is Piggy’s last year and Amber’s last year. The underclassmen know the importance of their going out on top and us getting another chance to go to the nationals and redeem ourselves,” said Martin.