VALE — A 2-1 start to the basketball season is a good thing for any program.
For the West Lincoln Rebels mens varsity team, it’s a great thing.
The Rebels finished last season with one win, in a nonconference game against Lincoln Charter in the third week of the season.
The team has doubled that figure through three games, taking wins over Burke County foes in Draughn and Patton in the first two games of the season.
The Rebels took their first loss of the season against Chase on Tuesday, but rallied from a 24-8 deficit to take a 27-26 lead in the third quarter on their way to a close 47-43 loss.
The team has benefited from the experience of four seniors, including guard Brett Huff, who missed the majority of last year’s season with a hand injury but leads the team with 43 points through three games.
“It’s our last year and we want to go out with a bang,” Huff said. “We’re working hard and trying to do better than last year.”
Head coach Karl Sain said last year’s inexperienced team, anchored by two players with previous varsity playing time, has become a formidable unit.
“We had it rough last year but we had two guys with varsity experience and a whole bunch of fresh faces,” he said.
“We have a much more experienced team. I know last year we won one game, but we’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
Sain cited the chemistry between his players as a major factor in the team’s success.
“These guys have played together for four years and we’ve run the same offense for those four years,” Sain said. “They’ve gelled really well together. We have guys that are all willing to do what it takes to win. They’ve bought in. They understand not just their own roles but they understand what each other is good at.”
The Rebels opened the season with a 59-50 win over Draughn in which they led the whole game, and outscored Patton 26-12 in the fourth quarter to take a 59-55 victory. Huff scored 26 points against Patton, with 11 coming in the fourth quarter. Senior forward Danny Miller scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half and Samuel Redding rallied for eight fourth-quarter points.
“We have a lot of competitors,” Sain said. “They have a lot of fight and they don’t quit. In two of our games we’ve come back from double-digits to take the lead. They believe they can be successful. That’s the way our whole program is going right now.”
The Rebels have three more nonconference games, hosting Fred T. Foard today and then facing Draughn and Patton on their home courts, with Southern Piedmont Conference play beginning Dec. 18 against East Lincoln.
Sain said the Rebels made a good showing at Clemson University’s basketball camp over the summer, and that any pressure the team is feeling is coming from within its own ranks.
“Right now we’ve got no pressure,” he said. “The expectations for us as a team, from outsiders, are low. We have high expectations of ourselves. Our expectations are to win.”