West Lincoln was one of three county schools to get new basketball gymnasiums in the offseason. And the early returns have been good.
The Rebels are 3-2 in their gym that seats approximately 1,350 fans versus 1-4 on the road as they entered the Peoples Bank Holiday Clash.
Head coach Chad Wright refuses to make too much of the discrepancy of success between playing at home or on the road.
â€œI think itâ€™s too early to tell. At the end of the season the numbers will probably be a little bit more even,â€ he said.
But one thing Wright will confirm is the new facility has given his basketball team an emotional lift.
â€œI think itâ€™s as good looking of a gym as youâ€™ll find and itâ€™s definitely created a lot of excitement among our players,â€ Wright said.
Just like in the â€œWizard of Oz,â€ there is no place like home, according to Wright.
â€œThe advantage is the enthusiasm level generated by playing in a new facility. It brings a certain comfort level to the players.â€
Another advantage, from the coachesâ€™ perspective, is with two gyms Wrightâ€™s players are able to get home earlier from practice.
â€œThat gives them more time to do their homework, which I think makes the money well-spent,â€ Wright said.
There are six seniors on this yearâ€™s squad: Ben Poole, Taylor Woodie, Eric Armstrong, Seth Wallace, Brad Labor and Casey Gee and their calling card has been the effort they give on a consistent basis.
â€œThis group of seniors and the effort theyâ€™re putting forth to have a good season is making it awfully enjoyable to coach and watch them everyday,â€ Wright said.
â€œOver the last couple of years, theyâ€™ve put a lot of work into basketball in the offseason to give themselves an opportunity to go out a winner.â€
The remaining four players on the varsity roster are juniors Clay Rayfield, Ryan Floyd, Matt Baxter and Jake Watts.
Although Wattsâ€™ name is more synonymous with baseball, heâ€™s beginning to carve out a niche on the hardwood.
â€œJake has really improved tremendously just in the last couple of weeks alone. Heâ€™s beginning to assume some personal responsibility on the basketball team as heâ€™s done in baseball and football,â€ Wright said.
Rayfield, Floyd and Baxter are also leaving their mark on this seasonâ€™s team.
â€œTheyâ€™re guys who contribute in so many ways that a lot of times donâ€™t necessarily show up in the box score. But all three of them have shown the capability to score in double-figures on any given night,â€ Wright said.
While the Rebels through 10 games are just 4-6 and 0-2 in the Southern Piedmont, Wright believes they have the potential to get on a roll.
â€œIâ€™m cautiously optimistic with our primary factor for the rest of the season being the continued commitment of all 10 guys.â€
by John Mark Brooks