Erwin girls basketball coach Terry Gossett does a double-take from time to time.
The Warriors are playing as many as four sophomores at once, a group that includes Gossett’s daughter, Dalton.
Youth has clearly not been a hindrance.
Erwin (6-1) opens Mountain Athletic Conference play tonight at home against Enka (7-2).
“We’re real pleased with how we’ve played up to this point,” Gossett said. “The effort has been good. We’re a fairly young team, but we’re getting better.”
The Enka-Erwin games are one of three MAC openers tonight — North Buncombe’s boys and girls are at McDowell, while Reynolds plays host to Asheville High. In each case, the varsity girls game will begin at about 6:30 p.m., followed by the boys.
The Warriors have won three out of the last four MAC 3-A girls regular-season championships and have only two seniors — Heather Burton (11 points and 7.0 rebounds game) and Molly Kerr (5.3 ppg. and 4.0 rpg).
Mariah Reid is a junior who is averaging a team-high 13.0 points a night, followed by sophomore Kendra Griffin (11.7). Griffin is also Erwin’s leader in steals (6.3 a game) and assists (5.3), followed by Dalton Gossett (3.4) in the latter category.
Enka beat Erwin, 45-44, in the finals of last season’s MAC 3-A tournament.
“Enka finished strong last year, and we know it’s going to be a challenge,” Gossett said. “They’re a very good team and can give you troubles in the post. We’re glad the game is at home because it’s going to be a tough one.”
The McDowell girls (7-0) are the only unbeaten girls team in the MAC, while Erwin (7-0) and North Buncombe (6-0) have yet to lose a boys game.
“It’s always exciting when you start conference play, especially when it’s against an opponent like North Buncombe,” Titans boys coach Brian Franklin said.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them, and (Black Hawks coach Joey Bryson) has got them playing well right now.”
Leading scorer Raekwon Miller (15.8 ppg.) started about a half dozen games for McDowell (4-3) last season. But otherwise, the Titans are putting a completely new lineup on the floor to begin games. Miller had 28 points in Wednesday’s 78-67 win at Mitchell, while Isaac Hillman (10.7 ppg.) added 21. Chris Clayton had 14.
“Considering how we started out, I’m pleased with where we stand right now,” Franklin said.
“It’s all relative. We’ve still got a lot to work on. But those spurts where we play well are starting to get longer and longer.”
Second to only a win, Enka boys coach Brian Carver had one hope for Wednesday night’s home game against Christ School.
“I didn’t want their kids to think it was just a glorified scrimmage,” Carver said.
The Jets fell to 3-6 with a 81-65 loss, but they were ahead by two points at halftime. They only trailed by one point with 3 minutes, 30 seconds to go against a Greenies program that has won six NCISAA 3-A championships since 2005 and produced a pair of NBA players (brothers Mason and Miles Plumlee).
Chace McAdoo led the way with 15 points for Enka, followed by Luke Rutherford (10) and Rayshawn Little (10).
“We certainly earned their respect, and they knew they were in for a battle,” Carver said. “It’s disappointing when you put in all that effort and don’t come away with a win, but I’m proud of my kids.”
Tonight’s task is no simpler for the Jets.
“Going over to (Erwin) is never easy, and they are full of confidence,” Carver said.
“It’s a rivalry game for both schools, and we know that. I hope our kids are up for the task. We’ve played a tough schedule and we’re licking our wounds. Hopefully, all those battles have tested us.”