Joel Allen

Joel Allen

WAXHAW — The Cuthbertson girls basketball team has won back-to-back Southern Carolina Conference titles and is favored to three-peat in 2021, but the Cavaliers are dealing with very different circumstances than they have in years past.

Normally bolstered by one of the best home crowds across the county, the Cuthbertson girls will have to do without their usual fan support this season because of attendance restrictions put in place by the highly-contagious COVID-19. The Cavs played their season-opener at home Wednesday and were forced to bring the noise themselves in a 66-30 win over Sun Valley.

“It was just a different atmosphere,” head coach Joel Allen said about Wednesday’s game. “We talked a lot to the girls about making our own energy. We’ve had such great crowd support the last few years, but they’re not going to be there this year. We have to work hard on encouraging each other and patting ourselves on the back, because the fans aren’t there to do that, and it’s going to be harder to feed off that momentum.”

Regardless of who’s in the stands, the Cavaliers will have the upper hand on many of their opponents this season thanks in part to their talent and experience — led by senior Maddie Dillinger. A multiple-time all-county selection and the reigning county girls player of the year, Dillinger totaled a game-high 25 points Wednesday.

A 6-foot forward who has committed to Lenoir-Rhyne, Dillinger is used to doing the heavy lifting on offense for the Cavaliers. Last season, she led the team with 13.7 points per game while totaling 313 field goal attempts, over 70 more than the next closest player. But where the four-year starter has developed over the past few years is her ability to impact the game in other ways.

“We have a lot of other pieces and a lot of other threats, but Maddie’s got to be the force that everyone tries to game-plan to stop, because she’s so versatile,” Allen said. “She can play inside and outside and defensively she can guard anybody on the court. She guards the other team’s point guard if we ask her to, a lot of nights. We just need her to be consistent, for the most part. There are going to be nights when teams try to take her away and she’s not going to be the leading scorer, but that’s fine. It’s going to open up other things for the other girls.”

The Cavaliers also got a big performance from 6-foot junior Ruby Williams, who scored 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Williams’ aggression on the offensive end led to a lot of free throws, and she made 8-of-10 attempts.

“With losing some of those seniors we lost last year, it’s going to give Ruby more of that opportunity to get more shots up on the offensive end.” Allen said. “But we put Ruby on a girl who made four 3s in the first quarter for (Sun Valley) and she didn’t score the rest of the way. She’s as good as Maddie on defense, and she’s starting to become more of a vocal leader, too.”