WEDDINGTON — Perhaps no boys basketball team in Union County was better equipped to handle the strain of the most recent offseason better than the Weddington. Despite rarely meeting face-to-face over the offseason, the Warriors have picked up where they left off after going 21-8 in 2019-20.
Head coach Gary Ellington’s team moved to 3-0 on Tuesday night with a 40-point win over Sun Valley, 74-34. While several county teams have struggled to find a rhythm after the unusual offseason brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Warriors are right where they want to be after the first two weeks of the season.
“We have such an experienced team, it’s such a luxury for a coach, because they understand what they need to do in certain situations …” Ellington said. “That six months where we had no personal contact with them, they were doing stuff on their own to get better. They came into this season, individually, better. The loss last year (in the state playoffs) against Freedom was just a heart-breaking loss, and they carried that into the offseason and into this season to be more determined and take care of business.”
The first half of Tuesday’s game was a struggle from outside for the Warriors, who came into the game averaging 21 3-point attempts per game this season. With the threes not falling, Weddington changed its offensive focus to attack the rim and dominate the Spartans under the basket.
The Warriors made 10 threes in the second half after converting just two in the first. They could have won without heating up due to their defense. Ellington’s team held the Spartans to just two points in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game and five in the final period of play.
Last season, Weddington held opponents to 52.7 points per game. This year, the Warriors have allowed 39.0 points per game, the best of any Union County boys team so far in 2021.
“From a defensive standpoint, the first three games have been outstanding,” Ellington said. “What I keep talking to them about is, ‘Hey, we’re a good offensive team, but we’re going to have bad offensive nights. We just can’t have bad defensive nights. If we play defense the way we have the first three games, we’ll defend long enough for our offense to figure it out. And once that happens, things kind of take care of themselves.”
Chase Lowe, a 6-5 junior guard and the reigning Union County player of the year, uses his size to dominant on the glass and disrupt passing lanes.
Three games into the season, Lowe’s assist numbers are way up. This year, he’s averaging 7.0 assists per game compared to 4.5 as a sophomore last season.
“Chase can score the basketball easily, and if that’s all he wanted to do, he could easily average whatever you want to put,” Ellington said. “But he’s a point guard. He’s not a guy who’s trying to get his points. He understands the importance of running the team and controlling the team, scoring when he needs to score but also keeping all his teammates involved. I think he’s developed much more of an IQ about what a point guard is supposed to do and supposed to be.”