WHS boys still in the hunt

Warriors preparing for semifinal game against Spartans
Feb. 19, 2013 @ 03:23 PM

The Southern Carolina Conference has been nearly impossible to predict this season, and perhaps no team better represents that than Weddington.

The Warriors have won close games and lost close games. They’ve beaten teams with better records and lost to teams with worse records.

But Weddington (14-11), the No. 3 seed in the six-team SCC tournament, is still alive and in the semifinals. That fact alone makes the Warriors a threat to win the whole thing.

“I don’t think there’s any clear best team at this point,” Weddington junior Mason Ospechuk said following his squad’s 50-47 win over No. 6 seed Parkwood in the first round.

Monday’s three-point win over the Rebels (3-20) came one week after Parkwood upset Weddington, 54-53, as part of the Warriors’ three-game losing skid to end the regular season. Prior to those three losses, the Warriors were 5-2 in conference play and very much in contention for the league championship.

Instead, Weddington will have to win three games to become tournament champions. The second step is Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal game at Sun Valley.

The Spartans (15-8) went 8-2 in league play during the regular season, but one of those losses was to Weddington. The Warriors defeated Sun Valley, 48-44, in Indian Trail earlier this season – although the Spartans later returned the favor with a 52-33 win on Weddington’s home court.

“They are super athletic,” Weddington coach Gary Ellington said of Thursday’s opponent. “They are really long. They’ve got four starters that are about 6-4, and they give us a lot of trouble with that length. We’re just not a big team, not a superior athletic team, so it just depends on, can we run our stuff against that athleticism.”

The Warriors were able to get good looks in the first meeting, and sophomore Jordan Barber – who buried the game-winning 3-pointer against Parkwood in Monday’s first round – scored 12 points to lead Weddington’s charge.

With a strong game against Sun Valley already in hand, and the soaring confidence that comes after making a game-winner, the Warriors expect Barber to be on point.

“He’s a sophomore, and he’s still learning how to run a team,” Ellington said. “But for his age, he does so many good things. You live with the few bad things that he does because you know he’s going to figure them out. He gets down sometimes because we definitely don’t take it easy on him because he’s a sophomore. We ride him pretty hard because we realize how good he can be. He could be special.”

Ospechuk said the Warriors simply didn’t have a good shooting night in the second regular-season matchup, and the numbers support his statement. Weddington shot 22 percent for the game (11-for-50) in that matchup, and nearly half of its attempts – 24 – were from beyond the 3-point arc. The Warriors made three of those 24 shots.

“We have to shoot the ball better,” Barber said of Thursday’s matchup. “And we have to keep our focus. If we stay focused throughout the whole game, that’s when we play our best.”